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Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Pope extends olive branch to China
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¬†Pope John Paul II has issued an apology for errors committed by Western missionaries in colonial times. Speaking at an audience the day after 120 missionaries to China were canonised, the Pope said the Church was not passing a positive judgment on colonial times nor on the behaviour of some governments towards China in the past. He said that often criticism of missionary activity came out of "a partial and non-objective reading of history which sees only limitations and errors." But he said if mistakes had been made "and is anyone free of fault - then we ask forgiveness." The apology came in the wake of furious attacks from the Beijing government over the weekend when the Pope canonised 87 Chinese Roman Catholics and 33 missionaries who were killed in China between 1648 and 1930. China took offence because the ceremony took place on the 51st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Vatican said the date had been chosen because it was the feast of St Teresa of Lisieux, patron saint of missions. In his homily on Sunday the Pope said the canonisations were an attempt to honour all Chinese people. On Sunday night Beijing fired the latest salvo in its war of words by providing what it said were details about two of the new saints. A Chinese government spokesman said several of the new saints had committed "great crimes" against China. One they said had seduced many of his female followers. Another, Auguste Chatelaine, who was executed in 1856, they said had triggered off the second Opium War and the burning of the Imperial Summer Palace. The Vatican said the martyrs were killed because they were loyal to their Christian faith. China says most were traitors executed for breaking laws when colonial forces invaded China during the 1839-42 Opium War, and during the 1898-1900 Boxer Uprising. This latest canonisation ceremony has been one of the most politically delicate acts of Pope John Paul's pontificate. The Chinese government does not allow any 'unofficial' religions to be practised. They broke official ties with the Vatican when the Communist party came to power in 1949. They say their official government-backed Catholic church has four million members. The Vatican says eight million Chinese are loyal to the Pope and worship in secret. ē The Chinese were not the only canonisations on Sunday. Two other new saints are an American heiress who gave up her wealth to found schools for American Indians and poor blacks and a former slave from Sudan. Katharine Drexel, from Philadelphia, used her 20 million dollar inheritance to establish a missionary order. After taking a vow of poverty, she opened 12 schools for native Americans and more than 100 for rural Afro-Americans. St Giuseppina Bakhita was a Sudanese-born nun known for her kindness and generosity. The Vatican said the group were being canonised together as a celebration of the catholic, or universal, nature of the church. These were the first Chinese to be canonised. But St Katherine Drexel is only the second US-born saint. The first, Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded an order in the early 1800s, was canonised in 1975.
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