Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for prayers for Christians in China on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Sheshan.
Speaking after the recitation of the Regina Coeli May 23, the pope noted that Chinese Catholics mark Monday’s feast at the national shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians at Sheshan, 25 miles south of Shanghai.
He said: “Tomorrow the Catholic faithful in China will celebrate the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians and heavenly Patroness of their great country.”
“The Mother of the Lord and of the Church is venerated with particular devotion in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai and is assiduously invoked by Christian families in the trials and hopes of daily life.”
He continued: “How good and how necessary it is for the members of a Christian family and community to be ever more united in love and faith! In this way parents and children, grandparents and children, pastors and faithful can follow the example of the first disciples who, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, were united in prayer with Mary as they waited for the Holy Spirit.”
“I invite you, therefore, to accompany with fervent prayer the Christian faithful in China, our dear brothers and sisters, whom I hold in the depths of my heart. May the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of the Church’s mission in the world, guide and help them to be bearers of the good news, witnesses of goodness and charity, and builders of justice and peace in their homeland.”
In 2007, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis’ predecessor, invited Catholics worldwide to observe the May 24 feast of Our Lady Help of Christians as a day of prayer for the Church in China.
Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, has called for the day to be extended to a week of prayer, from May 23 to May 30.
Pope Francis gave his live-streamed Regina Coeli address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where pilgrims stood wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking on Pentecost Sunday, he reflected on the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles in Jerusalem.
He noted that the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-11) says that the Upper Room where the disciples had gathered was filled with the sound of a rushing wind.
He said: “This experience reveals that the Holy Spirit is like a strong and freely flowing wind; that is, he brings us strength and brings us freedom: a strong and freely flowing wind. He cannot be controlled, stopped, nor measured; nor can his direction be foreseen.”
The pope said that, just as the disciples had sought refuge in the Upper Room after the Crucifixion, we also seek to hide from the unknown.
“But the Lord knows how to reach us and open the doors of our hearts,” he said. “He sends upon us the Holy Spirit who surrounds us and overcomes all our hesitations, breaks down our defenses, dismantles our false security. The Spirit makes us new creatures, just as he did that day with the Apostles: he renews us, new creatures.”
He recalled that after receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples preached about Jesus to a crowd of people who spoke different languages and everyone was able to understand their words.
“In other words, the Holy Spirit puts diverse people in communication, realizing the unity and universality of the Church,” he commented.
“And today it tells us so much about this truth, this reality of the Holy Spirit, where in the Church there are little groups that always seek division, to detach themselves from others. This is not the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is harmony, it is unity, it unites differences.”
The pope referred to the words of a “good cardinal,” who compared the Church to a river, encouraging Catholics to stay in the middle of the current and not be pulled to either bank.
He said: “The important thing is to be inside in the unity of the Spirit and not to look at the small things, that you are a little on this side and a little on that side, that you pray this way or that way… This is not of God. The Church is for everyone, for everyone, as the Holy Spirit showed on the day of Pentecost.”
After praying the Regina Coeli, the pope asked for prayers for Colombia, which has seen a wave of anti-government protests since April 28 after a proposed increase in taxes. At least 40 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes with security forces.
The pope said: “On this Solemnity of Pentecost, I pray that the beloved Colombian people will be able to accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that, through serious dialogue, just solutions may be found to the many problems from which the poorest people, in particular, are suffering as a result of the pandemic.”
“I urge everyone to avoid, for humanitarian reasons, behavior harmful to the population in the exercise of the right to peaceful protest.”
The pope also prayed for people forced to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano.
He said that the year would be followed immediately by a seven-year initiative known as the Laudato si’ Platform.
Finally, the pope greeted pilgrims from around the world gathered in the square below. He singled out a “loud” group of young people from the Focolare Movement.
He said: “I wish everyone a good Sunday. And please don’t forget to pray for me.”