Catholics welcome Lunar New Year

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Worshippers welcome traditional lions following Mass at St Peter Julian’s church in Haymarket on Saturday. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Dance, colour, gifts, prayers for deceased loved ones and lots of good food accompanied the arrival of the Lunar New Year for thousands of Sydney’s Catholics last weekend.

The Chinese Catholic community celebrated with special Masses held at Haymarket, Kingsgrove and Eastwood churches, while Paul Keating Park in Bankstown was full as Vietnamese-Australian Catholics gathered for Mass with their chaplains.

Fr William Chow, assistant priest at Our Lady of the Rosary in Fairfield, said the occasion offered a fresh start and hope for a happy 2020 for many Australians of Asian heritage.

“With the spread of the Coronavirus and the protests in Hong Kong, for many 2019 was a difficult year,” he said.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP wished a Happy Lunar New Year to members of Sydney’s communities who were celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Rat across the city last weekend (pictured).

“Our ability to practice our faith freely in Australia is something we may sometimes take for granted,” the archbishop said.

Fr Joseph Lu OFM prepares an offering of incense and prayers for deceased relatives. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok
Fr Joseph Lu OFM prepares an offering of incense and prayers for deceased relatives. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“But our friends…can remind the rest of us that freedom of belief, thought, conscience and religious practice are not universally guaranteed and that religious liberty requires eternal vigilance.

“As we begin our new year in thanksgiving, we ask our Lord to intercede for our country and especially for those in places where the faithful are persecuted. May they and we enjoy all the blessings of the New Year.”

Children wish worshippers at St Peter Julian’s “Gong hei fat choy” at the start of the Lunar New Year. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Pope Francis also sent his “cordial greetings” to the millions of men and women who would celebrate the Lunar New Year in Asia and across the world. He concluded inviting “all to pray also for peace, dialogue and solidarity among nations: gifts which are so necessary in the world today”.

The 22 January message came at the end of the Pope’s general audience, extending his wishes to all who would be celebrating the occasion. “I send them my cordial greetings, wishing them in particular to be places of education in the virtues of welcome, wisdom, respect for each person and harmony with creation,” he said.

The Vietnamese Catholic community gathered at Paul Keating Park in Bankstown to welcome in the Lunar New Year with Mass. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Sydney is said to have some of the largest Lunar New Year celebrations outside of Asia, and they have become an important multicultural and community highlight.They begin with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and end on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.

Were you there? View the photo gallery.