A statue some 10 feet tall representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was inaugurated at the Cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Lan Zhou, Gan Su province in China. The base of the marble statue bears a Gospel verse reading, “Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened” (Mt 11:28), in Chinese and English, as an invitation to respond to call of Jesus.
The back of the base shows the peace prayer of St Francis of Assisi. On the right side of the base is the presentation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on the left side, the special graces given to devotees of the Sacred Heart. According to diocesan sources, the statue is intended “to remind the faithful always of devotion to the Sacred Heart and the importance of prayer in daily life.” It is also a symbol of the Catholic faith and an invitation to “be promoters of evangelization aimed at all those who look at it”.
The Diocese of Lan Zhou now has over 350,000 faithful, 30 priests, 200 religious sisters from three congregations (Servants of the Holy Spirit, Holy Family, Daughters of Our Lady of China), 80 novices, 40 seminarians, 38 open churches. Bishop Han Zhi Hai has become famous for launching his courageous appeal for the unity of the Chinese Church in an open letter in January 2003.
The inauguration of the statue, which embodies a centuries-old devotion on the part of Catholics that began in Europe, comes during a time of crisis for Catholics and other Christians in China. So-called 'house' churches among Evangelicals and Pentecostals are growing in number, even while the communist government chastises and imprisons Christian pastors and priests.