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Heart of Jesus, Pudong, Shanghai, China
Heart of Jesus, Pudong, Shanghai, China.
Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Diocese of Shanghai.
A large, new red brick church with a very traditional looking
tower at the side. The front has a modern verandah and the interior
had been modernised.
The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association was established in
1957 and is under state control, not papal authority. Pope Pius
XII decreed in 1958 that clergy who acceded to its attitudes
and activities were automatically excommunicated, although the
Vatican has stopped short of declaring the laity schismatic.
In a letter of 27 May 2007 to the Catholics of China, Pope Benedict
XVI bemoaned the fact that "persons who are not ordained,
and sometimes not even baptised, control and make decisions
concerning important ecclesial questions" but acknowledged
that circumstances may require that the faithful "for the
sake of their spiritual good, turn ... to those who are not
in communion with the Pope." There has been some movement
toward reconciliation between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic
Association and the Vatican in recent years, with some bishops
(including the Bishop of Shanghai) becoming quietly reconciled
with Rome and subsequently ordaining clergy and consecrating
bishops who are likewise thus reconciled. The liturgy follows
Pope Paul VI's 1969 revision of the Roman Missal. Sacred Heart
Church celebrates mass on Saturday evenings in English, and
in Chinese and English on Sundays. Weekday masses are in Chinese.
Pudong is a district in the eastern part of Shanghai. It is
a special economic zone and, as such, is the financial and commercial
hub of China. Pudong gleams with modern skyscrapers and tall
apartment blocks as well as some older housing and markets.
There is a high concentration of expatriates among the population.
The Revd Francis Fang, pastor and parish spiritual leader, assisted
by the Revd Anthony Li, assistant leader. There were also several
acolytes, readers and eucharistic ministers, mostly European/American.
The date & time:
Sunday, 17 January 2010, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Completely full. I counted about 700 present.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Two teenagers greeted me with a smile and offered me the mass
and song books.
Was your pew comfortable?
Average pew. Good space for kneeling on comfortable kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service
Many people praying and lots of families greeting each other.
There was an air of expectancy. It was a wonderful atmosphere
for worshipping in China.
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit. Amen."
What books did the congregation use during the
Although we had been given books, most of the service was also
posted on a screen to the left of the sanctuary. This seemed
to be for the particular benefit of the Chinese members.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, violin, guitar, trumpet and (I think) castanets. There
were about 20 musicians in all, both singers and instrumentalists,
of about a 50/50 Chinese and European mix. They were all very
Did anything distract you?
As the mass began, a man in front of me took a call on his cell
phone – but he made it brief and it didn't happen again. And
there were the usual children and babies, but in a congregation
of 700 they were no big deal!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was the modern Roman rite with modern music, celebrated with
dignity and joy. Incense was used at the appropriate places.
Most of the mass was sung to a setting that I could easily join
in with, and the hymns were also very accessible. Everything
was done strictly according to the missal – which doesn't always
happen in the West!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes – there was a clock to time it!
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 The priest spoke English with a heavy Chinese accent,
but his English was good. I understood almost everything he
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Taking the gospel as his theme (John 2:1-12, the wedding at
Cana), he began by saying that Christians are a happy people.
He then showed why this should be, drawing out various themes
associated with this gospel passage. I had never heard this
aspect of the story put so well. Remarkable theology and preaching
in only 10 minutes!
Which part of the service was like being in
The eucharistic prayer. Everyone knelt and there was hushed
silence. It was both reverent and deeply spiritual. At the conclusion
everyone stood and sang the Lord's Prayer with enthusiasm. I
felt I had glimpsed heaven.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Everyone shook hands during the exchange of peace as though
Shanghai had never heard of swine flu! I had been avoiding handshakes,
especially when traveling, and was taken aback by this.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The crowd was too big for any meaningful fellowship. I did line
up to chat with the priest, who was very friendly. My enquiry
about a bulletin or leaflet led him to introduce me to a woman
from Singapore. She was very outgoing, took my email address,
and messaged me later that day with the church website and other
How would you describe the after-service
Nothing was offered – except by hawkers on the street selling
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 I doubt I would ever take up residence in Pudong. But
if I did, this is exactly the sort of church I would belong
to. The community feeling was very tangible. I have no doubt
that had I determined to do so, I could easily have made some
new friends for fellowship and future involvement. But I was
a one-time-only visitor.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, indeed. Especially when I reflected that Christianity has
only emerged from persecution in China within the last 20 years
and is still not easy to practice. The sense of the Catholic
Church being international and not congregational was very real,
despite the shadow under which the Chinese Patriotic Catholic
Association must operate.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The enthusiastic and joyful singing. Although the music was
modern, it was far from banal – which cannot be said of some
Catholic churches elsewhere!
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