On May 22, after praying the midday Regina Caeli, Pope Francis noted the upcoming feast of the patron of China, Mary, Help of Christians, celebrated May 24. He did not mention the recent arrest and release of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, whose trial is set for that day.
The Pope spoke of Mary, Help of Christians, venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai, and “in many churches throughout the country, and in their homes.”
“This happy occasion offers me the opportunity to assure them once again of my spiritual closeness,” he said, adding:
I am attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors, and I pray every day for them.
The controversial agreement between China and the Holy See that attempts to regularize the situation of choosing bishops is set to be renewed or abandoned in October.
Pope Francis called for everyone to unite in prayer that Chinese Christians might have “effective communion” with the Church, especially on May 24.
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.
The Holy See’s work to help the Church in China has been ongoing. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Christians in China. He established May 24 as a world day of prayer for the Church there.