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Dialogue between Christianity and China indispensable

VATICAN (CNS): “If we see only our own reasons and insist on our own experience as the norm, thereby denying the basis of other people’s experience, then disagreement, quarrels and even wars will be inevitable,” between individuals, communities, nations and religions, the former bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon told symposium on Christianity and China.
“As a result, our zeal for pursuing the truth will, ironically, become a chasm separating us,” he said during his March 22 talk at Christianity in the Chinese Society: Impact, Interaction and Inculturation, hosted by Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University from March 22 to 23.
“Dialogue is an indispensable feature of our world,” the cardinal said, pointing out that every person and community has their own unique context, outlook on life, values and norms.
“While affirming our own experience, we must acknowledge and respect the rationality of others’ experience. This is a prerequisite for social harmony and world peace,” Cardinal Tong said.
c are the two largest groups in the world, “each with its own profound culture and historic traditions,” the cardinal noted.
“When we are willing to listen to each other and to feel how the other feels, the experience of the other party will give us a new understanding of the world, life and society,” he told the gathering.
Not only does this enrich each culture, it also contributes to peaceful coexistence, Cardinal Tong said.
“When both parties take a further step, we will find ourselves getting closer and closer to each other and becoming friends on the path to the truth,” he said.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, highlighted the approach many Jesuit missionaries took when they went to Asia—in particular, China. 
It entailed believing in the primacy of God’s grace already at work in human history and preceding human action, he said on March 22.
“In China too, God is already present and active in the culture and life of the Chinese people,” he said.
The seed of the gospel has already been planted in China and now, it is growing and producing fruit “by drawing sustenance and assuming characteristics proper to the local culture in which it was sown,” the archbishop said.
“It seems clear that the mission of the Church in China today is one of being ‘fully Catholic and genuinely Chinese,’ making the gospel of Jesus available to all and placing it at the service of the common good,” Archbishop Gallagher said.
Relations between China and the Catholic Church have alternated between “moments of fruitful cooperation” and “great misunderstanding and hostility, leading, at times, to situations in which the community of the faithful experienced great suffering,” the archbishop conceded.
He said that by looking at the past, one can see the method that produced fruitful cooperation was a method of “inculturation of faith through the concrete experience of knowledge, artistic culture and friendship with the Chinese people.”
It should be possible to work out “an authentic Christian presence in China, which could present the special nature and the newness of the gospel in a context deeply rooted in the specific identity of the age-old Chinese culture,” he said.
“The universality of the Catholic Church, with its natural openness to all peoples, can make a contribution in terms of moral and spiritual inspiration to the great effort at dialogue between China and the contemporary world, doing so precisely through the Chinese Catholic community, which is fully integrated into the historical and current dynamism of the land of Confucius,” Archbishop Gallagher said.

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