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Chinese Christians Celebrate Mass On Christmas Eve

posted 24 Dec 2013, 10:11 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 24 Dec 2013, 10:12 ]

Chinese Christians flock to church for mass on Christmas Eve in Beijing.

BEIJING, CHINA (DECEMBER 24, 2013) (REUTERS0 -  Hundreds of Chinese Catholics flocked to Christmas Eve mass in Beijing on Tuesday (December 24) at Beijing's biggest cathedral.

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There were so many that some had to stay outside the church and watch the service on large screens.

This year's mass was held in three languages--Mandarin, English, and Italian.

China and the Vatican severed ties more than 50 years ago and only around 25 million people in the world's most populous nation are Christians.

Christianity spread for centuries in China before the Communists took power in 1949, closing churches and throwing out foreign missionaries.

In the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, many churches were burned and relics smashed.

But in recent years, Christianity has gradually flourished even when the authorities keep tight control on religion, banning all church activities held without state organizations.

Ms. Zhang, a 38 year-old investment banker and Beijing resident, said that she attended the service to pray for the year ahead.

"I've come to pray. I pray for a new year of smooth work ahead. I also pray for my mother's health, my little brother's health, and for the health of my entire family. That's it," she said.

Graduate student Pang Qi said that he wished for friends and colleagues to join him in celebrating this Christmas.

"So I say, Christmas will be merry. Why is it merry? Because our saviour Jesus Christ has come. But when he comes to those close to hearts--then we'll be happy."

As China prepares to celebrate Mao Zedong's 120th birthday, Christmas decorations are more common than Mao slogans on the streets of the northern capital.