Bibles available in Beijing's churches during Games

Update:23 Jul 2008

Sources with Beijing's Catholic churches said on Tuesday the capital's major churches would increase masses conducted in foreign languages during the Olympics. Foreign priests would likely preside over some of these masses.

According to the foreign affairs office of the Beijing Catholic Diocese, before the Games, Beijing's major Catholic churches, such as those at Dongjiaominxiang, Wangfujing and Xishiku, will increase masses held in French, Italian, and German, respectively. A Spanish mass is also under consideration.

Yu Shuqin, a staff member of the foreign affairs office and a sister in the Southern Church of Beijing, said although Chinese priests could speak some different languages, foreign priests were likely to preside over the masses in foreign languages during the Games.

Zhang Liang, a Tianjin Catholic Diocese priest, said an Irish priest was invited last year to preside over the English-language masses in Tianjin's Xikai Catholic Church twice a month. They attracted hundreds of participants each time. He added a Philippine priest replaced the Irish priest in May.

"On the one hand, it will help us provide better religious services during the Games," said Zhang. "On the other, it is for the foreigners living and working in Tianjin."

Tianjin, one of six Olympic co-host cities, will hold 12 football matches.

The Southern Catholic Church of Beijing currently has Latin and English masses. Almost 800 people participate in the English mass each Sunday. Father Han Wensheng said he expected more participants during the Games.

The China Christian Council (CCC) is now printing 100,000 copies of the New Testament with the Olympic logo on the cover. Some have been shipped to the Olympic Village and churches in Beijing and other co-host cities.

"The New Testament with the Olympic logo can provide convenience to believers coming to the Games. It is also a special celebration for the Games by the Christian Council of the host countries," said a report on the CCC website.

The Olympic-logo embossed New Testament, its full name being Special Edition for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, is a Chinese-English bilingual edition. Its publishing follows previous practices such as at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, said the report.

The CCC emphasized the cover design of the Olympic-logo embossed New Testament was endorsed by the organizing committee of the Games, free of charge for use.

However, considering the equality among different religions, the CCC said the Bible and other Christian scriptures would not be available in Beijing's hotels during the Games.

"If the Bible was made available in hotels, should the scriptures of other religions be available too?" asked Rev. Xu Xiaohong, CCC secretary general.

Liu Bainian, Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association vice president, said the churches could provide copies of the Bible to hotels if needed, rather than put the holy scripture into the rooms compulsively. However, no hotels had asked the churches to do so at present.

The annual circulation of the Bible in China is now 3 million. Besides the Chinese edition, eight ethnic minority languages and a Braille edition were are also available in domestic churches.

In accordance with the practices of the previous Olympics, a religious service center has been set up in Beijing's Olympic Village. The major religions around the world -- Catholics, Protestant, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism -- all have worship rooms in a bid to provide religious services to participants of different faiths.

Source:Xinhua News Agency

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