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Pope pleads for religious freedom in China


ROME (SE): Pope Benedict XVI made a special plea for religious freedom in China during his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the People of Rome and the World) Christmas greeting on December 25.

“May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them,” Pope Benedict said.

“I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble people and of the whole world,” he continued.

Speaking at a time when the Church in China is experiencing a new wave of official screw tightening, as the recently ordained auxiliary of Shanghai, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, has been stripped of his mitre and crosier, and the leadership of the diocese of Wuhan had been summarily dismissed, the pope’s call comes at a tense time.

His appeal follows a heartfelt cry from the Vatican prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Fernando Cardinal Filoni, and his secretary, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, for a resumption in high level Sino-Holy See diplomatic dialogue.

The pope also singled out Syria for special mention, calling it a country “deeply wounded by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims.”

He appealed for an end to the bloodshed and access for relief workers to tend to the needs of refugees.

He also mentioned Palestine, praying for an end to the tension between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and a commitment from both sides to end the long years of conflict.

North Africa was also on the list, with special mention of Egypt, which he noted once gave refuge to the saviour of the world, Jesus, calling for the dignity of each and every person to be acknowledged and respected.

Mali, Nigeria, the Congo and Kenya, all scenes of recent sectarian violence and bloodshed were also on the pope’s list of countries with special need and deserving of attention from the international community.

Finally, the nations of Latin America were mentioned as places troubled by violent crime waves, which have forced people to flee their homes and have often been fanned by the complacency and inactivity of governments.

Pope Benedict placed his remarks in the context of the Year of Faith and quoted Psalm 85 in expressing his good wishes and greetings: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him and salvation along the way of his steps” (11-14).

The pope said that Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of these prophetic words. He then quoted St. Augustine as explaining with brevity, “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary.”


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