Catholic Mass in Shanghai in the Time of COVID (2020)

I’m often asked about the COVID situation in Shanghai. The truth is, things are almost normal now. We do have to wear face masks on the subway and in places like hospitals. But other than that, things are pretty normal.

There is one notable exception, though. English Church services for foreigners have still not been allowed to resume, even though church services in Chinese resumed months ago. (I assume it’s the same for Catholics as for other Christians, but I’ll correct this if I’m wrong.)

I hear a lot of foreigners assuming that this is the government taking the opportunity to “tighten its grip” on religion, and that’s certainly possible, but I’m not so quick to assume malicious intent. I think it’s just way easier for the government to control the situation when there are no foreigners or foreign languages involved, and it just doesn’t want the hassle. (Nor does it place great value or priority on any kind of freedom of religion, however.)

Anyway, I took some photos last Sunday at the Xujiahui cathedral, St. Ignatius. You have to sign in at the gate, fill out a form, and display your health QR code to get in. (The “pass” they give you is good for a month, so you don’t have to fill out the form every week.)

Catholic Church during COVID

There’s also social distancing going on, marked with smiley face stickers instead of X’s:

Catholic Church during COVID
Catholic Church during COVID
Catholic Church during COVID

Somewhat surprisingly, Communion is distributed at mass.

Life goes on…

2021 Update: English services resumed May 15, 2021.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I first read that communism is distributed at mass, which wouldn’t be surprising lol. But yes, communion is a different matter.

  2. Thanks for sharing this info for Catholics. Are you a Catholic?

  3. @Enrique Happy to do it. Yes, I am.

  4. @Philip Ha!

  5. Kenneth Jones Says: November 22, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    John, thanks for the update. As you know, there used to be English, Korean, French and German Masses at St. Peter’s too. Any word on that parish? Praying for the Church n China.

  6. […] this year attending Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services would need to be in Chinese, since, as I mentioned before, English language religious services have not been allowed to resume yet in Shanghai. But Chinese […]

  7. Tom Wood Says: March 19, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    Hi, John. Any update as or mid-March 2021 for Lent and Easter? Thank you

  8. Is there any new information as to when foreign language masses may resume? Is there a website for the Archdiocese in Shanghai?

  9. […] year, I posted these thoughts on the […]

  10. thanks for sharing brother… good pics…Praise the Lord… as believers continue to remember our Lord wherever and whenever possible…

  11. […] down social activities, such as classes, meetings, etc. (Church services have once again been canceled in Shanghai, since last […]

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