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Pope prays for Chinese Catholics, talks about loving one’s enemies

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Women pray under umbrellas at shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sheshan in China
Women pray near the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue at the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sheshan outside Shanghai in 2007. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the face of difficulty, it’s natural to hope just to get by, but being Christian means patiently enduring trials and overcoming oppression with love, Pope Francis said at a Mass that included special prayers for China.

During the Mass May 24, Pope Francis concluded the prayers of the faithful with an invocation “for the noble Chinese people, that the Lord would bless them and the Blessed Mother keep them.”

The day’s feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians is a feast close to the hearts of millions of Chinese Catholics and is the day Pope Benedict XVI designated as a worldwide day of prayer for Catholics in China.

Joining Pope Francis for the early morning Mass May 24 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae were Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and several Chinese priests, seminarians and nuns. They sang a Marian hymn in Chinese at the end of the Mass.

Staff of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications also attended the Mass.

In his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the special God-given grace of being able not just to survive difficulties, but to carry them aloft and continue one’s journey.

“It is not easy, because discouragement comes and you feel like lowering your arms and saying, ‘Oh come on, we’ll do what we can but nothing more,’ a bit like that. But, no, endurance is a grace, and we must ask for it in the midst of difficulty.”

While there may be many ways to overcome difficulty and end oppression, “the grace we ask for today is the grace of a victory through love, by means of love,” he said. “This isn’t easy when we have enemies outside who make us suffer a lot; it’s not easy to win with love.”

Getting revenge is a natural temptation, he said, but Christians must follow the example of Jesus — “that is the victory.”

“Our faith is precisely believing in Jesus, who taught us love and teaches us to love everyone,” Pope Francis said. “The proof that we are acting in love is when we pray for our enemies.”

Those who do not pray for and forgive their enemies are “defeated Christians,” he said. “How many sad, discouraged Christians do we see because they did not have this grace of enduring with patience and vanquishing with love?”

The pope prayed that Our Lady, Help of Christians would intercede to give all Catholics the grace of endurance and love.

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