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Mobile apps assist Catholics in freezing northeast China

Friday 8 January 2016, by SIGNIS

Beijing, Brussels, January 8th, 2016 (SIGNIS/Ucanews). Social media are not always bad. In China, reports Ucanews, Catholic communities in northeastern provinces are using them to evangelize in the winter while still offering pastoral care directly to elderly Catholics.

"In northeastern provinces, such as Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning, the average temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius for four to six months a year. "Our community will dispatch small gifts when evangelizing in summer," said an underground Catholic in Harbin who identified herself as Teresa. "But in winter it is just too cold and now that the smog gets serious year by year, it makes us reluctant to go out," she said...In Jilin, a Catholic webmaster, who identified himself as Paul, told ucanews.com that Sunday Mass numbers drop dramatically during the winter months.

To overcome the freezing weather, the Internet and mobile apps become valuable evangelization tools.... "We use Wechat and QQ friends groups to connect fellow Catholics," said Teresa about the Chinese social media platforms that are similar to Twitter and Facebook.

Introduced in 2011, the Wechat app is getting more popular with the number of users surpassing 600 million in China and 1.2 billion around the world last May. Wechat offers a public platform for organizations and many church groups in China, including the Harbin Apostolic Prefecture of the underground community and Jilin Diocese, who use it to create online religious readings....

However, Paul, the webmaster, said he has reservations on how effective Wechat is due to the busy life of office workers and college students. "Our Wechat public platform has 500 subscribers but the rate of page views is dissatisfactory," he said. "The majority of the elderly Catholics don’t use the internet or mobile apps to connect with the church. So family visits by parish priests are still necessary," he added.

In addition, news dissemination is restricted in China. "We were once banned from reposting a news report from the website of the State Administrative for Religious Affairs. It is an official announcement but why can’t we repost it?" Teresa asked."

Full report here

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