On Monday, April 4, the catholic churches in China held prayer and mourning sessions for the late Pope John Paul II. Masses of Chinese Catholics unite all over the nation to mourn his death the day after the traditional Chinese festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day, that honors the deceased. These timely happenings brought solemn attitudes toward Pope John Paul II to the churches in the mainland.
At dawn, Chinese worshippers flooded the Southern Cathedral, a church over centuries old located at the heart of Beijing. Participants expressed regret for the Pope, not being able to make his visit to China.
Out of the many travels that John Paul II made, none were able to enter the mainland due to the absence of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican since 1951.
One of the elderly worshipers, Yang, stated, "My biggest hope is for China and the Vatican to establish diplomatic relations under the next pope. Maybe that can also help improve religious freedom here."
Ceremonies to commemorate John Paul II were held consecutively across major cities, such as the northern port city of Tianjin and the eastern metropolis of Shanghai, both known to be traditional strongholds of Christianity in China.
"We held a requiem for the pope immediately after we learned that he had passed away." said an official at Shanghai's Dongjiadu Catholic Church. "Many were sad and solemn, and cried during the ceremony."
Recitation of prayers for John Paul’s spiritual repose took place not only at official churches registered with the government, but also at unofficial ones, according to the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, a supporter of China's underground Catholics.
The foundation quoted an anonymous underground priest saying "the Pope gave the underground Church in China vitality, energy, encouragement, hope and blessings. The Pope's canonization of 120 Chinese saints in 2000 ... must have significantly increased the power of his heavenly influence to save and bring to blossom the Roman Catholic Church in China."
Cardinal Kung Foundation’s President, Joseph Kung, explained that the pope’s death deeply impacted the Catholics in China, who had suffered a long period of time because of refusal to submitting to official pressure.
"Since 1949, there have been thousands of martyrs in China because they refused to cut off their relations with the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth," Kung stated. "Today, we still have numerous Roman Catholic bishops, priests, and other religious and faithful in jail because they will not sever ties with the Pope in order to join the Chinese government-established official Church or the Patriotic Association."