Chinese Catholics united in mourning for Pope


Shanghai, April 10:

Thousands of Chinese Catholics attended services for Pope John Paul II in Shanghai yesterday, despite the Chinese government’s refusal to forge ties with the Vatican.

“Our pope loved China and loved the Chinese church,” Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian said at a memorial mass at Shanghai’s St Ignatius Cathedral, the city’s main Catholic Church.

A symbolic funeral bier was laid at the base of the altar, topped with white flowers arranged in the shape of a cross and fronted by a framed photograph of the pontiff.

Scores of clergy from the Shanghai diocese were arrayed in white, purple and gold

vestments in the choir of the Gothic red brick church, built almost 100 years ago by French Jesuits.

Beijing avoided sending an envoy to John Paul’s funeral in a spat over the Vatican’s relations with China’s rival Taiwan.

Yet the death of the pope has united China’s Catholics in mourning, at least temporarily fading the differences between official and underground churches and fuelling hopes that Beijing might ease its rejection of any ties between believers and Rome.

Churches run by the official China Patriotic Catholic Association, including St Ignatius, claim 4 million followers. Foreign experts say as many as 12 million more worship in the unofficial churches.

Underscoring China’s unease over commemorations of the pope’s death, several dozen uniformed and plain clothes officers kept watch outside the cathedral.

Plainclothes officers also sat in the pews at a smaller mass at the St. Peters church in downtown Shanghai.