Shandong (Fides Service) - The deep faith of Chinese Catholics sustains them even amidst difficulties and persecution. Over a century ago when the Catholic community in Shandong province in eastern China was struck by an epidemic of typhoid fever, people prayer fervently. Assistance to the sick was organised by Divine Word missionary Father Joseph Freinademetz who will be canonised by the Pope in Rome on 5 October. Joseph Freinademetz was one of the first Divine Word missionaries to work in China, particularly in the Shandong area.
Joseph Freinademetz was born in South Tyrol in 1852, ordained a priest in 1975, and a year later he joined the Divine Word Missionaries. In 1881 he was entrusted with the Divine Word mission in Shandong and he became known as “the father founder of the Church in southern Shandong. People called him Fr ‘Fu Ruo she’, and compared him to Confucian, China’s greatest scholar, because the people said, Fr Joseph possessed all the moral virtues.
Still today Catholics in difficulty have recourse to Fr Joseph Freinademetz. During the SARS epidemic in spring people prayed to their special missionary to intercede with God to help.
A local Catholic Mr Wang tells Fides: “amidst difficulties and the fear, due to scarce information about the disease, the local Catholic community prayed intensely to Joseph Freinademetz who died to save his people from typhoid fever. And the SARS emergency is not over, it good break out again in the winter”.
Joseph Freinademetz remained 27 years in Shandong province and died there. Christians in Shandong are planing various celebrations in view of the canonisation. “A novena of prayer, rosaries, Masses…are the best way to commemorate our Saint and his life” an elderly Catholic tells Fides Service. However the faithful hope one day to be able to pray all together without being observed by government officials with diffidence because of their origin. NZ (Fides Service 30/9/2003 EM lines 28 Words: 339)