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VATICAN SPECIAL: Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics

7/1/2007 - 3:00 PM PST

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"Willingness to Engage in Respectful and Constructive Dialogue"


VATICAN CITY, JULY 01, 2007 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana) - Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI wrote to the Catholics in China, signed by the Pope on May 27, the solemnity of Pentecost. The Vatican press office released the letter today.

* * *

LETTER OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS, PRIESTS,
CONSECRATED PERSONS
AND LAY FAITHFUL
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

Greeting

1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China: ''We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven ... We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy'' (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).

These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of communion that unites us spiritually.

Purpose of the Letter

2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have manifested ''sometimes at the price of grave sufferings'',[1] since ''it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake'' (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless, some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause for concern.

Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, ''the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history''[2] wants from you.

PART ONE

THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH
THEOLOGICAL ASPECTS

Globalization, modernity and atheism

3. As I turn my attention towards your People, which has distinguished itself among the other peoples of Asia for the splendour of its ancient civilization, with all its experience of wisdom, philosophy, art and science, I am pleased to note how, especially in recent times, it has also moved decisively towards achieving significant goals of socio-economic progress, attracting the interest of the entire world.

As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II once said, ''The Catholic Church for her part regards with respect this impressive thrust and far-sighted planning, and with discretion offers her own contribution in the promotion and defence of the human person, and of the person's values, spirituality and transcendent vocation. The Church has very much at heart the values and objectives which are of primary importance also to modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the wise management of the phenomenon of globalization''.[3]

The pressure to attain the desired and necessary economic and social development and the search for modernity are accompanied by two different and contrasting phenomena, both of which should nonetheless be evaluated with equal prudence and a positive apostolic spirit. On the one hand, especially among the young, one can detect a growing interest in the spiritual and transcendent dimension of the human person, with a consequent interest in religion, particularly in Christianity. On the other hand, there are signs, in China too, of the tendency towards materialism and hedonism, which are spreading from the big cities to the entire country.[4]

In this context, in which you are called to live and work, I want to remind you of what Pope John Paul II emphasized so strongly and vigorously: the new evangelization demands the proclamation of the Gospel[5] to modern man, with a keen awareness that, just as during the first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during the second in the American continent and in Africa, so during the third millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vibrant Asian continent.[6]

" 'Duc in altum' (Lk 5:4). These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with ...

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