Tianjian: more than 200 adults baptized just before Christmas

China Aid Association
In the cathedral of the wealthy autonomous municipality south of Beijing, 217 new Christians were baptized. They have found meaning in their lives again, and have learned the Gospel form of love and sharing, rediscovering the meaning of Christmas.
Tianjin (AsiaNews/UCAN) – Before beginning the process of catechesis that led him to be baptized just before last Christmas, John Wang celebrated the holidays by “enjoying lavish meals, dancing and drinking in the pubs all night”. “This Christmas was different”, the 46-year-old civil servant says. Wang is in fact one of 217 catechumens who, last December 22, received baptism in the Xikai cathedral in Tianjin, a wealthy autonomous municipality south of Beijing.
He says, “I now understand the true meaning of Christmas, that Jesus came to save us from sin more than 2,000 years ago. I thank God for not abandoning me, for allowing me to live anew through baptism”.
Another catechumen, Thomas Jiang, admits that he always had a mistaken idea of Christmas: “I thought Santa Claus was the central figure of Christmas, because I saw his picture in hotels, shopping malls and everywhere. Now I know it is the one born in Bethlehem, the Savior”.
The 28-year-old Jiang says that he had a profound spiritual experience when, on Christmas day, he saw the image of the Child Jesus in the manger, in the cathedral’s nativity scene: “I couldn’t hold back my tears! I felt there and then that Jesus’ life was full of love and beauty”.
The newly baptized, Francis Xavier Zhao explains, “served the people who came to the vigil Mass and welcomed the visitors. I was amazed to see our church bustling with tens of thousands of curious visitors from early morning until the midnight Mass. These celebrations reminded me to be holy and devout, and to share and care for others”.
Referring to his patron saint, “the apostle of Asia”, Zhao expressed his desire “to follow St. Francis Xavier’s example to evangelize so that more people may know and follow Jesus”.
Andrew Tong, a young student who attended the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve for the first time, said that he felt his heart beat faster when the statue of the Child Jesus was brought into the church in complete silence: “I shed tears of joy and repeated in my heart, ‘Christ is born for us'”.
The other newly baptized expressed similar feelings: the celebrations moved them, and prompted the desire to reaffirm their determination to obey the commandments of God and to follow the example of Jesus, in order to be good Christians.
These new Catholics – 90 men and 127 women – shattered the record for baptisms at the cathedral, which began giving catechism lessons (three times a year) in 2004. In June, after the springtime course, there were 206 baptisms. There were 353 in all of 2006. Of the people baptized at Christmas, 70% are between the ages of 20 and 40; 25% are a little over 40, while the remaining 5% are under 20 years old. About 60% of them received a university education, while the rest graduated from high school. Many come from non-Catholic families.
Now, explains cathedral parish priest Fr Zhang Liang, the new Catholics “will participate in a year-long course aimed at strengthening their faith and their understanding of Catholicism. They will learn, among other things, how to read the Bible, to participate fully in the Mass, and to practice their Christian faith in their daily lives”.

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