About 300 people, including China Catholics, attended a Mass on May 24 to pray for the Church in China.

When one meets a Catholic from China, it is not helpful to ask the person if he or she is from the “underground” or “official” Church, says a priest.

It is not helpful for outsiders to distinguish between them, said Fr Henry Siew.

He was speaking at a Mass to pray for the Catholic Church in China, held on May 24 at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul. Pope Benedict XVI has urged the universal Church to pray for the China Church on this day.

In his homily in English and Mandarin, Fr Henry said the main difference between the “underground” and “official” Church communities is that the latter has had its places of worship and activities registered with the Chinese government, while the former is unwilling to do so due to persecution during the Cultural Revolution.

Fr Henry Siew

“They are still recovering from the pain and hurt,” Fr Siew said, but added that the Church in China is of “one heart and one mind with the universal Church” and prays for the pope.

“We as outsiders should not add to their burden by making distinctions among them. What we can and should do is to pray for them, encourage them, dialogue with them, help them to create mutual understanding and respect,” he said.

Fr Siew also dismissed the notion that all Catholics from the “official” Church community have to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Fr Siew told the congregation that when they prayed to the Lord to “send more labourers for the harvest” to also include themselves as one of the “labourers”.

He noted that Singapore and other Catholics in the region have provided monetary support to dioceses in the southern China such as in the construction of churches, including one in Haikou, Hainan Island, as well as pastoral support in programmes like the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and Marriage Encounter.

However, there is a “plentiful harvest” in Singapore with new migrants and foreign workers, many of whom are Mandarin speaking, he stressed.

These people have spiritual needs to be fulfilled, he said.

Actions can speak louder than words, Fr Siew noted. He gave an example of a parishioner from the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who tried to share his faith with a Chinese tenant in English as he was not fluent in Mandarin.

The tenant later decided to visit a Catholic church and subsequently converted. This convert also encouraged others to embrace the Catholic faith.

Some 300 people attended the Mass to pray for the China Church.

By Darren Boon
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