Celebrating the Chinese New Year

13th February 2013 - by Eamonn O'Brien

Fr. Eamonn O'Brien SSC Celebrating the Chinese New Year with Fr Joseph Liang, the Chinese chaplain in Westminster Diocese
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Eamonn O’Brien, the Columban Director of Cultural Exchange with China, participated in the Lunar New Year of the Chinese community at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Bethnal Green, London on Sunday 10 February. Fr Joseph Liang, the Chinese chaplain in Westminster Diocese who is from mainland China, presided at the mass.


Afterwards, there was a special ceremony – with a long history in China – to commemorate and respect ancestors of the congregation who had died. The prayer said at this ceremony celebrated the ancestors and thanked them. It recognised them as hard working and doing their best for the community, whom they loved, and acknowledged that they had lived a good life in the world. The prayer went on to ask “God to accept their spirits: may they live forever, may they rest in peace”. After the prayer, incense was lighted and – with profound bows – was offered to the ancestor tablet on the mini altar. Flowers and fruit were also offered. The ceremony concluded with profound and respectful bows by all in the Church and the prayer to God to “remember our ancestors and all who have died”.

The ‘veneration of ancestors’ was incorporated into Catholicism by Matteo Rici, the great Jesuit missionary in China from 1152-1610. However, due to differing views on this matter with other religious orders it became very controversial in China and the Vatican condemned this ritual in1704, only restoring it for use in the Catholic Church again in 1937.