Next Friday is the start of the Year of the Dog, and for the second time in three years it looked like Lent might throw a complication in the path of Chinese Catholics hoping to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Lent begins this year on Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, meaning the Feb. 16 Lunar New Year falls on a Friday. Normally that would mean abstaining from meat, however Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, is granting a dispensation for Asian Catholics and guests celebrating Chinese New Year on Friday, Feb. 16.
In a letter to the faithful, Archbishop Miller offered his greetings for a Happy New Year and wrote, “as is customary in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, dispensation from the Lenten discipline of abstinence is granted to Asian Catholics and their guests celebrating the festival on Friday, Feb. 16.”
Although the New Year’s celebrations fall “during the solemn season of Lent, it is certainly fitting that social celebrations among families and loved ones take place,” he wrote.
He did remind those celebrating to “to keep in mind the spirit of prayer and charity that we seek to practise during the Lenten season.”
In 2015, Archbishop Miller granted a dispensation when the Lunar New Year’s holiday fell on Ash Wednesday. He dispensed those celebrating from their Ash Wednesday obligation, adding that anyone making use of the dispensation must observe a different day of fast and abstinence on some other day.
This year, the archbishop also used his Lunar New Year letter to request prayers for current discussions between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China “as they work to better the relationship between them and improve the situation for Chinese Catholics.”
The Holy See is reported to be nearing an agreement to regularize relations with the officially communist Chinese government.
The situation is complicated by the relationship between the government-supported Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church, which includes priests and bishops who are not recognized by the government.