From the Director - A new life in China?

Columban Fr Gary WalkerEaster is the most important feast day in the Catholic calendar and people in all parts of the world will celebrate the belief that death is conquered by Jesus Christ.

There will be sadness in the Middle East where so many Christians will be unable to celebrate this important feast. These are the people who have endured the scourges of war, lack of food and water, sickness, anxiety and becoming ‘collateral damage’ over which they have no control.

Whilst there does not seem to be any resolution to the Middle East crisis, good news seems to be on the horizon for the Chinese Catholic Church. There are whispers abroad that the Chinese government and the Vatican may end years of official silence by resuming diplomatic relations more than 60 years after the Pope’s representative, the Papal Nuncio, left Beijing in 1952. It will not happen in time for Easter this year, but it will be wonderful when it does happen.

There is even speculation that Pope Francis may visit China in 2017. Such a visit would be historic - the Pope travelling to China has never happened before.

The Pope’s interest in improving relations with China is significant for Columbans as the Society’s first mission was in China almost 100 years ago. Today we have missionaries in China who work in limited capacities; how good it would be if they were free to evangelise without restriction.

In round figures, four million Catholics are enrolled in the Chinese Patriotic Association and 16 million followers in the ‘underground Church’ outlawed and subversive because it has always been loyal to Rome. They have all suffered for their faith and the day when the whole Church in China may pray together is hopefully not far away.

On January 28, Pope Francis gave an extraordinary interview to Francesco Sisci, China Renmin University senior researcher and an Asia Times columnist. It seems significant that the interview took place in a Vatican hall decorated with a painting of Holy Mary, Undoer of Knots, in which she performs the miracle of untying impossible knots.

In the interview, Pope Francis said that China had always been a reference point of greatness, and more than that, a great culture with an inexhaustible wisdom. Even as a boy, the Pope was inspired to read anything about the country. He added that the Chinese people were in a positive moment and we should not be afraid of China.

The Pope sent Chinese New Year greetings to the Chinese people and to President Xi Jinping, for the lunar New Year. He is the first Pope to do so in 2000 years.

Time might heal some wounds but obviously this is difficult. People did not choose their faith over loyalty to the government even though the government sees it that way. A chance for peace and reconciliation.

What a gift of new life!

God bless you.

Fr Gary Walker SSC

From the Director - Written with a shaky hand  LISTEN TO: From the Director - A new life in China?
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Read more from The Far East, March 2016