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CHINA-OLYMPICS Mar-22-2007 (520 words) With photos. xxxi

Chinese Catholics begin plans for religious needs of Olympic athletes

By Catholic News Service

BEIJING (CNS) -- Catholic leaders in China are making arrangements to meet the religious needs of foreign Christian athletes and visitors during the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, recently urged the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to "provide English-language Bibles in hotels." Liu is a member of the consultative congress, the top advisory body of China's central government.

On March 21, he told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, that his proposal aims to meet "the religious needs of foreign athletes," since many of these visitors are Christians.

The 2008 Olympic Games are scheduled Aug. 8-24, 2008. Most venues will be in Beijing. However Qingdao, a port city, will host sailing events, and Hong Kong will host equestrian events. Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenyang and Qinhuangdao will host preliminary rounds of soccer.

Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong, another member of the consultative congress, told UCA News that conference members from the five government-recognized religions discussed the religious needs of Olympic Games participants at the recent meeting and made suggestions to the Beijing Olympics organizers. The five religions are Buddhism, Catholicism, Taoism, Islam and Protestantism.

"We religious groups should prepare well to receive foreign visitors, such as training suitable local personnel to provide good services," Bishop Zhan said, adding that the local Catholic Church can arrange for priests who speak foreign languages to celebrate Mass and for nuns who speak foreign languages to serve at the event.

The bishop, whose diocese is in eastern China's Fujian province, said he believes the Beijing Diocese is prepared to meet such needs. It holds English Masses on Sundays at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, also known as Nantang or South Church, and other churches.

Father Peter Zhao Jianmin of Beijing told UCA News March 14 that his diocese is preparing a "comprehensive service plan" for the Olympics, and church personnel will further discuss what needs to be done after Easter.

The diocese may seek help from other church areas if there are not enough priests to celebrate Masses in foreign languages, said Father Zhao, who is Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan's assistant for managing and coordinating diocesan affairs.

Liu told UCA News that 20,000 copies of the Bible will be needed. He said he was optimistic that his suggestion would be approved and added, "I will think of a way to get the Bibles."

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China have designated the Beijing Diocese to provide pastoral care during the 2008 Olympic Games.

The diocese provided such services during the 11th Asian Games in 1990, which also were held in the capital. Two priests from the diocese provided religious services at the site of those games, in which more than 6,000 athletes from 37 countries took part.

Liu said he has no doubt the Beijing Olympic organizers would set up similar worship venues. He pointed out, however, that no copies of the Bible were provided in local hotels during the Asian Games.


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