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Parish priests from China meet with pope

Vatican (SE): Following his general audience on April 27 at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis received a group of 23 parish priests from different dioceses in People’s Republic of China. They came away from their encounter deeply impressed by the cordial, kind and simple way of the pope to spoke with them like a brother.

The 23 priests had just completed an exchange programme on pastoral issues at the Verbiest Institute at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, before travelling to Rome on a Holy Year pilgrimage and were introduced to the pope by Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

Hearing of the pastoral exchange programme, Pope Francis said, “Excellent, excellent! That’s what we need!” Claretian Father Paco Carin, assistant director of the Verbiest Institute had previously taught the priests to how to invite the pope to visit China in Spanish. The pope answered, “Yes, I would like to come.”

Following their encounter with the Holy Father the group was received the prefect and the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Fernando Cardinal Filoni, and Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai. 

In welcoming the 23 visitors, Cardinal Filoni reminisced about the 10 years he spent in Hong Kong working with the Church in China. He encouraged the priests and affirmed them in their work of evangelisation.

During their pilgrimage, the 23 priests walked along the Via della Conciliazione singing Chinese hymns and reciting the rosary, moved by the awareness that 40 years ago what they were doing was forbidden and unthinkable for Chinese Catholics.

They entered through the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica and prayed at the tomb of St, Peter. The next morning they celebrated Mass in the crypt and prayed for the unity of the Church in China and for the freedom to practice their faith and show that they are also good Chinese who love their country.

They journeyed to Assisi on April 28 where the next day they completed their pilgrimage with a Mass at the catacombs. They returned to China on April 30.

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