“This happy occasion offers me the opportunity to assure them once again of my spiritual closeness. I am attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors, and I pray every day for them,” he said.
The pope continued, “I invite all of you to unite yourselves in this prayer so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquility, might live in effective communion with the universal Church, and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone, and thus offer a positive contribution to the spiritual and material progress of society, as well.”
In response, the Catholic humanitarian organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and other human rights groups have also called for prayer. Adding to the urgency for prayer this year are reports that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the 90-year-old retired bishop of Hong Kong who is an outspoken support of the pro-democracy movement there, is expected to return to court on Tuesday in connection with his May 11 arrest for allegedly violating China’s national security law.
"The wish of Benedict XVI was to promote unity in a community that had become divided into 'official' and 'underground,' but at the same time, to foster communion between the entire Catholic Church and Chinese Catholics. Therefore, on this day, all Catholics are called to express their solidarity with Christians in China," ACN said in a statement released on May 23.
"Furthermore," the statement continued, "the prayer aims at strengthening Catholics in their faith, especially at a time when public witness and practice of faith or even the explicit proclamation of the Gospel are increasingly restricted by the Chinese communist government."
Here is the prayer Benedict XVI asked Catholics to pray on this occasion: