The Feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, served as an occasion to remind Catholics in northern China of Pope Benedict’s call for unity among all Chinese Catholics.
In the Diocese of Xuanhua, Hebei province, about 1,000 parishioners attended the solemn 5 a.m. feast-day Mass at Xiheying Church, reported UCA News.
During his homily, Fr. Xia Shaowu highlighted Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on one Church in his June 30 papal letter.
"No matter which way we have taken before, we should now return to the side of our Blessed Mother on this feast day," the priest reportedly said.
In a separate Mass that day, some Catholic university students presented the papal letter as an offertory gift. They later dedicated the letter and their acceptance of it to the Blessed Mother.
The young people were taking part in a weeklong formation program, during which they shared their understanding of the papal letter and of unity in the Chinese Church. They also discussed their role as Catholic youth and how they could live out their faith more concretely.
Chen Chen, one of the students, told UCA News she would now strive harder to live Christian virtues and would "bravely admit her Catholic identity in her workplace."
To help Catholics further understand the papal message, Fr. Xia said that his parish has published 1,000 copies of the letter for free distribution and holds daily discussions on it.
The latest issue of his diocese's monthly magazine, Faith Life, published a special issue for the feast day that dedicated the Church in China to the Blessed Mother in the spirit of the Pope's letter.
Fr. Xia said the Pope’s letter has prompted some conservative "underground" Catholics, who had refused to enter any “open” church previously, to come to his parish and to be in communion with other parishioners. This is also happening in other areas of the diocese as well, the priest reported.