ASIA/CHINA - Christmas time for Chinese Catholics. When the light of Jesus crosses the days of pain

Tuesday, 10 January 2023 christmas   covid-19   pandemic   sacraments   baptism  

by Marta Zhao
Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - Many Chinese Catholics will always remember the Christmas season that has just ended.
This time, the renewal of joy for the birth of Jesus encountered the suffering and troubles brought about by the new upsurge of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just in the days before and after Christmas, many families were touched by pain and mourning. And precisely in all of this, the sensus fidei of many baptized people found in Christmas the light to live even such painful circumstances as Christians. "Many stories and events seen and heard in these days were for me like a real 'epiphany' of the faith of brothers and sisters embraced and consoled by Jesus, who give Him thanks in every circumstance of life", says to Fides Maria Han, who attends the church dedicated to St. Joseph in Beijing.
The Catholic community in China has lost nuns, priests and many catechists during the wave of contagion. The websites of the parishes accessible via social networks such as WeChat were filled with requests for prayers for the sick and dying, and with announcements of the deaths of many elderly people, in addition to spontaneous solidarity initiatives launched to bring antipyretics and other medicines, which were out of stock, to people who are also coping with the disease in isolation at home. The historic sacristan John Zhu Deyou, known by all as "master Zhu" (in the photo), who helped generations of catechists and altar boys to grow in the faith, passed away in the Beijing Cathedral.
Many seriously ill and many dying people were unable to receive the anointing of the sick and the sacraments before passing away. In those situations, children and the grandchildren of dying elderly people, following their sensus fidei, fully exercised the universal priesthood of the baptized, accompanying the last moments of their loved ones with prayers and blessings. Gathered around their bedside, they made the sign of the cross on their elderly parents' foreheads with holy water, bidding them a last farewell.
The stories of priests who administered Extreme Unction to the dying were recounted thanks to social networks, while the network of parishes and dioceses was set in motion to ensure a dignified burial for all the people of the various communities hit by the pandemic, and to bring medicine and food to families isolated at home due to the contagion. "Our communities have shared the trial of anxiety, of pain, of a sense of helplessness in the face of illness. In the darkness of these difficult days, the light of Christmas shone even brighter and more intensely, bringing consolation to the hearts of many. Also in this way many brothers and sisters gave witness to Christian hope, received and lived as a gift greater than all our miseries and fragility", confides Joseph Zhang, as he leaves the cathedral of Beijing, after attending mass on the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. (Agenzia Fides, 10/1/2023)