101 baptisms mark the reopening of Beijing Cathedral
The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady Cathedral in the Chinese capital has been closed for six months due to Covid-19
A Chinese boy walks down the aisle during a mass at a Catholic church in a village near Beijing on Holy Saturday April 3. (Photo: Jade Gao/AFP)
The Archdiocese of Beijing marked the reopening of the cathedral church after a six-month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic by baptizing 101 new Catholics.
Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing presided over the reopening ceremony of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Our Lady on July 16. In the evening, Bishop Li baptized the new Catholics, mostly adults, and also administered other sacraments including Communion and Confirmation, Fides news agency reported. .
Hundreds of Catholics, young and old, lined outside the cathedral door in the morning, visibly excited to resume spiritual, liturgical and pastoral activities as the government relaxed Covid-19 regulations.
Many Catholics took the time to pray outside the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at the church in the Chinese capital before entering the cathedral itself.
The cathedral complex, with the church, the courtyard and the sacristy, was again filled with prayers, spiritual songs, smiles and the “noises” of children.
Emotion and joy were evident on their faces and those of the community, but also on those of the catechists, priests, nuns and lay volunteers who accompanied them on their journey of faith during the pandemic, overcoming a thousand difficulties, reports the Fides Agency.
“State-sponsored persecution and intimidation of Christians has intensified”
Bishop Li reminded the faithful to live the gifts of baptism in their lives.
“By baptism you are children of light, by confirmation you are sent by Christ. Baptism is not a simple ritual, but an interior conversion. Now live an authentic life of faith, put on a new spirit and of a new identity, which Christian…you shall be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, incarnating Christ and bearing witness to our Lord by love and by works”.
The Prelate also stressed that as Christians they must be ready to witness to faith in difficult situations.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them,” the Prelate said, referring to Psalm 126.
The new baptisms in Beijing are said to have captivated the local Catholic community at a time when state-sponsored persecution and intimidation of Christians has intensified as the Chinese Communist Party steps up its crackdown on religions in the country.
Catholic bishops have been arrested and remain imprisoned in secret locations.
For his part, Father Joseph Zhao, the parish priest, thanked all those who have followed the long journey of faith and asked everyone to continue to protect these “new seeds” of the community so that they can grow together in the Church on the path of synodality.
Nestorian missionaries are believed to have brought the Christian faith to China after arriving in the then Chinese capital of Chang’an (Xi’an) during the rule of the Tang Dynasty in 635 AD.
The Franciscan friar Giovanni da Montecorvino arrived in Beijing in 1293 and established the first Catholic mission in China. The Russian Orthodox Church made inroads into China in 1715 and the Protestants in 1807.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported in 2010 that China has 13 million Protestant Christians.
The Holy Spirit Study Center of the Diocese of Hong Kong estimated in 2012 that China had about 12 million Catholics.