One of a kind: meet the WYD pilgrim from China

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The final Mass of World Youth Day was a sea of national flags. In the million-strong crowd, however, it was hard to find one particular flag – China. That’s until CNA bumped into Thomas Zeng.

“This week has been absolutely fascinating,” said the university student who’s traveled all the way from Shanghai to be at World Youth Day in Madrid. Thomas says he doesn’t know of any other pilgrims from China.

“It is wonderful that I can meet so many Catholics, more than one million. That could never happen in my country, but I believe with the grace of God that it will one day.”

Thomas is actually one of 8 to 12 million Chinese Catholics. About half of them, though, have ties to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, a state agency founded in 1957.

Many bishops now belong to the Patriotic Association while maintaining communion with the Holy See, but the association’s principles of independence and strong nationalism make this position difficult. The Patriotic Association has recently ordained several bishops without Vatican approval.

Thomas says it’s “not difficult to be a Catholic in China.” But to be “a good Catholic,” he notes, might be a different matter: “If you want to proclaim (Catholicism), you will maybe be in trouble.”

“I think after today I think I will be more brave to proclaim Jesus Christ to my friends, my classmates,” says the student of management science at his home city’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, adding that he will no longer “be so afraid.”

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4 responses to “One of a kind: meet the WYD pilgrim from China”

  1. I can personally verify having met a number of pilgrims from China: from Hong Kong, from Shanghai, and from Zhejiang Province. Having recently returned from China myself, I was fascinated to know that they made it, especially those from the mainland. Several of them were part of the Magis Program run by the Jesuits. I told them how glad I was to see them there. As a matter of fact, at the Sunday mass with the Pope, one of the prayers of intercession was said in Mandarin.

  2. “Several of them were part of the Magis Program run by the Jesuits.”

    What a tribute to the memory of St. Francis Xavier, who died off the coast of China that he had hoped to convert to Christianity!

  3. Dear Deacon Greg

    Thanks for posting this. As a Catholic living in Shanghai for eight years I’m happy to hear we had a small delegation to WYD. There’d be talk of the event in the city’s international (expat) parish, but no delegation was proposed.

    Great to hear Thomas made it — St. Ignatius, the local parish near his university, is quite a strong one and I hope the event helped him to grow in his faith.


  4. I’ve been at mass in the Guangzhou Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. All Sunday masses are packed even though at one of the masses I attended there was a squad of Chinese soldiers guarding the entrance. Those soldiers looked intimidating. I don’t know why they were there, but yet the Chinese faithful filled the benches and even the aisles. One of the masses is in English and it was full solid with Chinese and a great number of Africans, many from Uganda and Nigeria. The mass was so full that people were standing outside the Cathedral building on the front courtyard. God bless the Chinese believers, they are a great part of the future Catholic Church in the world.

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