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CHINA-OLYMPICS Aug-31-2007 (430 words) xxxi

Catholic Church in China gears up to provide services for Olympics

By Catholic News Service

BEIJING (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Beijing and several other Chinese cities hosting the 29th Olympic Games has been gearing up to provide religious services for athletes and visitors.

Most events for the first Olympic Games to be held in China, scheduled for Aug. 8-24, 2008, will take place in Beijing, but Hong Kong, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenyang and Tianjin also will host events.

Father Chen Tianhao, parish priest at St. Michael's Cathedral in Qingdao, which will host the sailing competition, told the Asian church news agency UCA News in a recent interview that his diocese has set up a team to provide religious services during the games.

Father Chen said the cathedral will include English Masses, and the Diocese of Qingdao may send priests to the competition venue to celebrate Mass if they are needed.

To help its choirs sing hymns in English, the diocese has invited foreign musicians to train them, the priest added.

Father Zhang Liang from the Diocese of Tianjin told UCA News that since March the diocese's cathedral has started holding English Masses said by an Irish priest two Sundays a month in preparation for the Olympics. Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, is one of five cities that will host soccer matches.

About 60-70 foreign Catholics working or studying there attend the English Masses regularly.

The priest noted that the Olympic competition venues appear to have worship areas. However, whether local priests with a good command of English will be assigned there for pastoral services will depend on the government, he said.

According to the Beijing diocesan Web site, the Beijing Municipal Religious Affairs Office held a three-day course in late July at the Central Institute of Ethnic Administrators to train Olympic volunteers from various religions on etiquette, cultures, China's religious policies and regulations.

The 60 participants included Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims and Protestants, said the Web site.

It said that through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association of Chongwen district, 15 Catholic laypeople from the Diocese of Beijing also enrolled in two courses on English and etiquette in July in preparation for the Olympics. The association acts as a liaison between registered Catholics and the Chinese government.

Priests from the dioceses of Shanghai and Shenyang, where soccer matches are scheduled, said their dioceses have yet to arrange special pastoral services.

However, they said local parishes currently provide regular Masses in English, Korean and other languages.

Worship venues in Beijing can be found online through the official Web site of the Olympics: en.beijing2008.cn/spectators/beijing/religion.


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