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Beijing Gives First Perpetual Vow-taking Rite for Nuns
As the Bridal Chorus started in a major Catholic church in Beijing Sunday morning, all attendants were expecting a special "wedding ceremony."

"Are you willing to be more intimately united with God?" asked Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan.

"Yes, I am," responded Theresa Ying Mulan, on her knees like a lamb in front of the altar, with her eyes brimming with tears.

In front of Michael Fu, the Bishop of Beijing Diocese, Theresa Ying and five other nuns vowed to devote themselves to Christ and serve Church with their whole life in the North Church, the largest Catholic church also known as Xishiku Church in Beijing.

They vowed to follow Christ according to the teaching of Gospelin the convent and never alter for lifetime.

They were the first group of nuns taking the perpetual vow who have been cultivated by Beijing Diocese since 1949 when the new China was founded. And they made the third batch in the 130-year history of the St. Joseph's convent of Beijing Diocese.

Even the aisles were packed as the raining day did not dampened the enthusiasm of over 1,000 Catholics to witness the grand religious rite that has been of absence for half a century in China. Quite a few of them are young people.

The six nuns received thorn wreaths on their heads and silver ring on the ring fingers of their right hands, symbolizing their perpetual vows, following the climax of the religious rite.

Pipe organ was played, chorus chanted, and gospel preached. The six nuns were greeted one after another by priests and nuns, some teary, some smiling. Applause filled the church.

The St. Joseph's convent of Beijing Diocese was established in 1872 by a French priest and three Chinese nuns. The normal religious activities in China had been suspended during the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-76). Chinese people's religious freedom was not guaranteed until late 1970s when China started its reform and opening up drive. The convent, resumed function in 1986, now has more than 50 nuns.

Zhang Jinhua, 37, became a nun in 1986. She is the youngest among the six. "It means I've become Jesus Christ's bride, and I will serve Church all my life," she said.

Theresa Ying, a 68-year-old doctor, was baptized in the North Church eight days after she was born.

"We six sisters have become the new roots in the convent," Ying said, adding that the convent will certainly become fruitful in the future.

Bishop Fu Tieshan, chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, said after the rite that China has only one Catholic Church. Like Catholic Churches in other countries in the world, it belongs to the same belief. Sunday's ceremony was given according to the liturgy that has been followed by all Catholics around the globe.

"China is capable of independently building Church well," he said.

The Gospel of Christ entered Beijing in the 13th century. China has seen a rapid development of Catholicism over the past two decades. Currently there are five million Catholics, more than 100 dioceses and 5,000 churches. Over 50,000 people receive baptism each year in China.

(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2002)

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