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Friday, March 31, 2017
Pope reaches out to China
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¬†Pope Benedict's long≠awaited Letter to Catholics in China was released on Saturday. In the 28-page document entitled: "A Pressing Invitation to Charity, Unity and Truth" the Holy Father invites Catholics from China's government-approved Catholic Church to unite with the Catholics loyal to Rome who currently have to practice their faith underground. He also urged the government in Beijing to restore diplomatic ties and permit religious freedom. China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist party took power. Worship is allowed only in the government-controlled churches, which recognize the Pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops. Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations that remained loyal to Rome. Many 'underground' Catholic bishops, priests and laypeople have been imprisoned or put under house arrest for the faith. In his letter Pope Benedict insists on his right to appoint bishops, but said he trusted that an agreement could be reached with the Beijing authorities on nominations. The Vatican would like to have a formula similar to the one it has with Vietnam, another communist country, where the Vatican proposes a few names and the government selects one. Significantly, Pope Benedict has revoked previous Vatican-issued restrictions on contacts with the clergy of China's official church, and recognized that some Chinese faithful have no choice but to attend officially recognized Masses. In a Declaration following the Letter the Vatican said: "By means of his Letter, Pope Benedict XVI wishes to express his love for the Catholic community in China and his closeness to it. 'From the text of the Papal document two basic attitudes are clear: on the one hand, deep spiritual affection for all Catholics in China and cordial esteem for the Chinese people, and, on the other, an earnest appeal to the perennial principles of the Catholic tradition and the Second Vatican Council in the ecclesiological sphere. It is, therefore, a pressing invitation to charity, unity and truth. 'The Letter is directed to the Church in China and deals with eminently religious questions, responding to precise queries which have been addressed for some time to the Holy See by Chinese Bishops and priests. It is not, therefore, a political document, nor, much less, an indictment of the government authorities, although it does not ignore the well-known difficulties which the Church in China must daily tackle. 'The Holy Father recalls the "original plan" which Christ had for his Church and which he entrusted to the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops. In this light, he takes into consideration various problems of the Church in China which emerged during the past fifty years. From this "plan" he also draws inspiration and formulates guidelines to tackle and resolve, in a spirit of communion and truth, the said problems. 'In the Letter, Benedict XVI declares himself fully available and open to a serene and constructive dialogue with the civic authorities in order to find a solution to the various problems concerning the Catholic community, and to reach the desired normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Government of the People's Republic of China, in the certainty that Catholics, by freely professing their faith and by giving generous witness of life, contribute also, as good citizens, to the good of the Chinese people.' To read the full Letter see:
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