Prayers for China and Julian of Norwich's Revelations

Pope Benedict focuses on Chinese bishops and God's providence at his weekly audience.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 1.
Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 1. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked people to pray for Catholics in China, who “are living through particularly difficult times.”

With a group of Catholics from mainland China in the front rows of the Vatican audience hall Dec. 1, Pope Benedict asked for prayers of support for “all the Chinese bishops, who are so dear to me, so that they would witness to their faith with courage, placing all their hope in the Savior who we await.”

The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his weekly general audience; it included no explicit mention of the fact that, 10 days earlier, a bishop was ordained in China without papal approval.

Under close surveillance from local government officials Nov. 20, Father Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained bishop of Chengde — the first bishop ordained without papal approval in four years.

Eight bishops in communion with Pope Benedict laid their hands on Father Guo, whose ordination was illicit in the eyes of the Church. In a Nov. 24 statement, the Vatican said it was particularly outraged that some of the ordaining bishops apparently were forced by the government to participate in the ordination.

Pope Benedict entrusted to Mary “all the Catholics of that beloved country so that with her intercession they can realize an authentic Christian existence in communion with the universal Church.”

In his main audience talk, the Pope focused on Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic.

He said her book, Revelations of Divine Love, a description of and reflection on 16 private revelations, helps Christians face with hope a perennial question: If God is all good, why do the innocent suffer?

Julian’s writings “exude an optimism grounded in the certainty that we are loved by God and protected by his providence,” he said.

Although God’s ways are mysterious, the Pope said, Julian knew that all Christians must hold on to the fact that God has the “power to bring good out of evil.”

Julian used “the imagery of a mother’s love to describe the affectionate care which God shows for his children,” the Pope said.

“With a certain audaciousness, she does not hesitate to compare God’s love to a mother’s love. This is one of the most characteristic messages of her mystical theology: The tenderness, the concern and the sweetness of God’s goodness are so great that they evoke a mother’s love for her children,” he said.

The Pope said biblical prophets and other saints also have described God as a mother to convey the “tenderness and intensity” of God’s love for humanity.