VATICAN CITY — Christians should pray on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit give them the courage and strength to share the Gospel, Pope Francis said.
“No matter how difficult the situation may be — and indeed, at times it may seem there is no room for the Gospel message — we must not give up and we must not forsake pursuing what is essential in our Christian life, namely evangelization,” the pope said May 24, the Wednesday before Pentecost.
Using the example of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the 19th-century Korean martyr, Pope Francis continued his weekly general audience talks about the “zeal” to evangelize.
With thousands of visitors and pilgrims — including bands, flag twirlers and dancers — gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square, the pope introduced his talk about St. Andrew by pointing out how Christianity was introduced to Korea 200 years before St. Andrew by laypeople who had heard the Gospel proclaimed in China and then shared it when they returned home.
“Baptized laypeople were the ones who spread the faith. There were no priests,” the pope said. “Would we be able to do something like that?”
Ordained in 1844, St. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first Korean-born priest and ministered at a time of anti-Christian persecution.
Pope Francis told the story of how when the saint was still a seminarian, he was sent to welcome missionaries who snuck into the country from abroad. After walking far through the snow, “he fell to the ground exhausted, risking unconsciousness and freezing. At that point, he suddenly heard a voice, ‘Get up, walk!’”
“This experience of the great Korean witness makes us understand a very important aspect of apostolic zeal: namely, the courage to get back up when one falls,” the pope said.
“Each one of us might think, ‘But how can I evangelize,’” he said. Following the example of the “greats” of evangelization history, each Christian can find a way to witness to the Gospel — “talk about Jesus” — in his or her family, among friends and in one’s local community.
“Let us prepare to receive the Holy Spirit this coming Pentecost, asking for that grace, apostolic grace and courage, the grace to evangelize, to always carry forward the message of Jesus.”
Prayers that Chinese
Catholics can practice
faith fully, freely
Also on May 24, Pope Francis prayed that Catholics in China would be free to share the Gospel and live their faith fully.
At a time when Vatican-Chinese relations are strained because of apparent differences over an agreement to name bishops, the pope publicly marked the annual World Day of Prayer for the Catholic Church in China May 24, the feast of Mary, Help of Christians, “venerated and invoked at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.”
“I invite everyone to lift up a prayer to God so that the Good News of Christ crucified and risen may be proclaimed in its fullness, beauty and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and of the whole Chinese society,” the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience.
Pope Francis said he wanted “our brothers and sisters in China” to know that Catholics around the globe are close to them, “sharing their joys and hopes,” and that “all those who suffer, pastors and faithful,” find consolation and encouragement “in the communion and solidarity of the universal church.”
In 2018, the Vatican and the government of China signed an agreement outlining procedures for ensuring Catholic bishops are elected by the Catholic community in China and approved by the pope before their ordinations and installations. The agreement was renewed in 2020 and again in 2022.
But in April Chinese authorities transferred Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen to the Diocese of Shanghai apparently without Vatican agreement. And in November, just a month after the latest renewal, the Vatican issued a public statement of regret, essentially accusing the Chinese government of violating the agreement when Bishop John Peng Weizhao of Yujiang was installed as auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi, “a diocese not recognized by the Holy See.”