On the first day of December, Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics around the world to pray for the Church in China, as the country's state-run Catholic Patriotic Association prepares to choose new leaders.
“I commend to your prayers and to those of Catholics throughout the world the Church in China,” he said, mentioning that the country's Catholics were “going through a particularly difficult time.” The Catholic Patriotic Association will meet Dec. 7-9 to select its new top official, as will the so-called “Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China.”
Neither of those associations has received the recognition of the Holy See, although the Vatican has acknowledged the fidelity of some individual bishops who choose to operate within the confines of China's state-run church while pledging their obedience to the Pope.
Before November 2010, relations had been slowly improving between Beijing and the Holy See. However, on Nov. 20, the Catholic Patriotic Association ordained a new bishop without the Pope's approval.
Fr. Guo Jincai received his illicit ordination as a bishop after the Chinese government reportedly detained several bishops loyal to the Holy See, to force their cooperation in the ceremony.
“We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to sustain all the Chinese Bishops,” the Pope prayed on Dec. 1, before a crowd of around 8,000 pilgrims at his Wednesday audience.
“We also entrust to the Virgin Mary all the Catholics of that beloved country, that, through her intercession, they may be able to live an authentic Christian life in communion with the universal Church, contributing in this way also to the harmony and common good of their noble people.”