Chinese Catholics on front line in earthquake rescue efforts

 Chinese Catholics are praying and working on the front lines in the earthquake zone, especially through the coordination of the Dioceses that have been affected by the quake. Just days before the Universal Day of Prayer for the Church in China, called for by Pope Benedict XVI in his Letter to Chinese Catholics on May 27, 2007, Chinese Catholics are praying intensely to Our Lady Help of Christians, whose feast is May 24, asking that she assist the Chinese people in this time of pain and trial. More than 15,000 people have now been officially reported dead from the violent earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and struck Si Chuan, a southwestern province of continental China. The epicenter was located in the district of Wen Chuan, with a population of 105,436 (according to statistics from 2007). Over 60,000 people are still unaccounted for there. According to the most recent information sent to Agenzia Fides from the Catholic dioceses, about forty churches in the Diocese of Cheng Du, Si Chuan's capital city, have been damaged. Among them was an older Church that has been completely leveled, along with the other buildings nearby. The seminarians from the Seminary of Si Chuan have all had to transfer to tents outside the building. According to Auxiliary Bishop of Wan Zhou, Bishop He Ze Qing, "we celebrated Mass this morning for the people affected and asking for help and support. Various churches in the diocese have been damaged, including the Bishop's Residence and the offices of clergy." According to a priest in the Diocese of Chong Qing, ten churches there have been damaged. In the Diocese of Nan Chong, three churches show long and deep cracks in the structure and cannot be used. The faithful immediately organized a prayer vigil and have already made a collection for raising funds. The Diocese of Yi Bin, located at 300 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake has immediately organized aid. One of the faithful from the area said, "we are followers of Christ, and we should bear witness to Him in every circumstance, especially in a situation like this. We are praying for the peace and security of our brothers and sisters, for our country, for everyone." Also worrisome is the situation of the parish church of Ya An, in the Diocese of La Shan, which has been severely damaged. In the area, there are several older churches, however it has been impossible to make contact with them yet. The area near the epicenter can only be reached by satellite telephone. Bishop Han Ji De of Ping Liang, in the province of Gan Su, immediately following the earthquake celebrated Mass for the country's citizens. In that province, various churches and other Catholic structures have been severely damaged. From Beijing to Jiang Su (east), from Yun Nan (south) to Liao Ning (north), all the Chinese Catholic communities have taken action and are bearing witness to Christian love in the name of all the world's Catholics. Just months after the travesty of the snow and ice of this past January, from whose effects the population has not yet recovered, once again the Catholic association Jinde Charities is working on front lines to coordinate Catholic aid in response to this new emergency situation. Source: Fides

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