Friday, 2 May 2003

Beijing (Fides Service) – Communities of the different religions in China, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians have joined the mobilisation of the people to fight SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, in particular by collecting funds for the health personnel which continues to work with dedication to overcome the virus.
The Catholic community in Beijing is united with Chinese society and is playing its part above all with intense and unceasing prayer to fight SARS. Although religious activities have been suspended, particularly gatherings in church, Catholics continue to keep in contact via telephone SMS messages and the Internet, exchanging information, prayers, offering mutual support. A Catholic in Beijing said to Fides Service: “On Sunday, 2nd Sunday of Easter, I had many messages from people who said they would like a special prayer from the Holy Father for us for the people of China struck by the SARS virus. We want to make an appeal to the universal Church, to the Pope and to the Catholics of the whole world: please pray for us!”.
In the meantime pilgrimages to Marian shrines in May will be drastically reduced to avoid infection by SARS> Fr Lan Xiaopeng, parish priest of the church of Our Lady of Succour at Sheshan, near Shanghai said that many pilgrims and dioceses have cancelled their visits to the Shrine: “May is usually the busiest month, but this year the number of pilgrims will be low.”
The shrine of Our Lady of Succour at Sheshan, near Shanghai, situated at the top of a hill, is one of the most popular among Chinese Catholics. In recent years in the month of May about 50 or 60,000 people visited the Shrine to pray the rosary, the Stations of the Cross. However on April 23 the Church in China issued and official notice to suspend pilgrimage and to pray at home, to avoid infection by SARS. (Fides Service 2/5/2003 EM lines 29 Words: 314)