Saturday, May 24th, is the feast day of Mary, Help of Christians. She's also the namesake for the Marian shrine at Sheshan, Shanghai.
It's the only basilica in China. The Communist government confiscated the shrine in the 1950's. In 1981, it handed over control to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the bishops' body officially recognized by the government, and independent from Rome.
In 2007, Benedict XVI established this day as the World Day for Prayer for the Church in China. In a letter to the country's bishops, he urged them to renovate their communion of faith in Jesus, and their obedience to the Pope. He also asked that the unity among them be stronger and more visible than ever.
On Wednesday's General Audience, Pope Francis asked for prayers for this day.
"I ask all Catholics to pray so that, under the protection of Mary, Help of Christians, Catholics in China continue believing, hoping and loving, and so that they may always be the leaven of peaceful coexistence between their fellow countrymen.”
Despite the hardships and challenges, an estimated 67 million Christians live in China, but the number is on the rise.