.- Chinese Catholics joined in the celebration of Chinese New Year on Sunday with Masses of Thanksgiving, prayer, works of charity and the commemoration of deceased priests and missionaries. The faithful were particularly excited by the Pope’s Angelus greetings for the occasion. On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI directed his attention after the Angelus to the celebration of the lunar New Year celebrated in parts of Asia, especially in Vietnam and China.
Citing the opportunity the holiday provides to strengthen family and generational ties, he expressed his wish for those who are celebrating to "maintain and grow the rich heritage of spiritual and moral values that are rooted concretely" in their cultures.
A priest in Beijing told Fides, “for someone else, it might seem like the usual greeting of good wishes, but for us Chinese Catholics, especially those of us who live on the mainland, every time it arouses great emotion.
“Every time, gratitude arises from the depths of our hearts! Thank you Holy Father! You have made us feel so close to you, so close to the Universal Church. We are always with you."
There was “very large” participation in the Solemn Masses celebrated Sunday in all the Catholic communities. Entire families came together and prayed, thanking God for the past year, calling on the maternal protection of Mary, and asking for peace and prosperity in the world and in China.
At the parish of Fan Ga Da in the He Bei Province, Fides reports that priests and the faithful went to the Catholic cemetery to pay homage to priests and missionaries who had dedicated their entire life to the Church. They also visited the parents of several priests and religious to thank them for supporting their children’s vocations.
The Catholic community of Zhong Shan issued a message for the Chinese New Year on its website. It commemorated the missionaries who came from abroad and thanked all who have supported the growth of the Catholic community. The message expressed hope for an increase in social harmony so that Catholics may help others to know Jesus Christ and the Church.
The community’s message closed by invoking God’s blessing on the Chinese people.