CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Take time to heal the wounds

By Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF
HONG KONG (SE): Fernando Cardinal Filoni, the prefect of the Congregation of Evangelisation of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) has a connection with Asia that runs deeper than having been a former nuncio who took care of the affairs of Macau, Hong Kong and China. Though for eight years (1992 to 2000) he was the nuncio to the Philippines, he based himself in Hong Kong, bridging China-Vatican relations. 
Tough as nails and an expert in emergencies, he stayed put in Baghdad, challenging the invasion by the United States according to the Vatican position on Iraq war in 2003. “The missiles are not intelligent,” he quipped, reminiscing his nightmarish days during the Iraq war. 
His previous service in Iran had made him closer to Asia. So a deeper concern for the region and its development is palpable in his words even as he is heads a Vatican congregation which has a universal responsibility.
In this visit to the Far East, he made stops in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. In Macau, which he visited from March 3 to 4,  he also to blessed the new campus of the University of Saint Joseph, at Ilha Verde. In his address to the university faculty and students, he recalled his own teaching past and said that the most important invention in the world is the wheel, which keeps the world on the move now.
In a previous lecture to the clergy of the diocese, he said that students flock to Catholic schools because of the values that are taught, quoting the instances of the Christian schools in United Arag Emirates, which he had visited together with Pope Francis in the last month. 
In his sharing, he emphasised the need to establish right formation values in Catholic schools. He mentioned that proselytisation is not one of the goals of the schools but rather, the nurturing of a desire for what is spiritual among the students, which will later inspire them to search for God.
Elsewhere, he reminisced about the story of one of the newly-appointed bishops of Mosul, the biblical Nineveh. This city, which was destroyed by ISIS militants, has a long history. 
The newly appointed bishop is curating writings from over 1,500 years ago in Hebrew, Greek, and even Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. He was indicating the role of Christian educational institutions to value and preserve cultures.
The ease with which he moved between subjects indicated his erudition and expertise in different subjects. 
On a different note, he was asked to comment on the much sensitive topic of the China-Vatican provisional agreement. In fact, a couple of weeks prior, he mentioned in an interview published in L’Osservatore Romano that the unofficial and official Churches in China were like two streams of a river, one running below the surface and the other above. The provisional agreement has made it possible to merge them into one. His role in brokering the agreement is no longer a secret in the Church. 
Asked what plans are envisaged to heal the wounds of the broken relationship between the unofficial and the official Churches in China and if there might not be a difference between idea of the merger of the two streams envisioned in the provisional agreement and the reality on the ground, Cardinal Filoni told the Sunday Examiner that, “The solution has already started. First of all, it will come from God helping the two streams understand themselves and to see that there is only one Church.”
He went on to reflect, “When I was in Hong Kong, I had always said that there is only one Church. The division is not inside the Church but for some other reasons. In the recent past these reasons have begun to go down so we are happy to have these streams be united. We need time… the wounds … you know… of long time… cannot repair in a short period of time. So prayer, hope and action will give mature these new moments of communion in Church.”
As to any suggestion he might make, at the ground level, in which people from Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan could help in aiding this merger, the cardinal said, “Yes… Now there are no bishops who are faithful to the pope (on one hand) and some unfaithful (on the other). The bishops are untied. This is formal. Now we have to go deeper in this communion. It is not enough to have formal communion but also love and understanding. It is important that we work also for ‘the soul of communion.’ This will come slowly.”
In an interview with the chief editor of O Clarim, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Macau, he recounted the origin and mission of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, saying that it was founded during the colonisation period of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
He quoted Pope Francis’s words saying that the congregation is not meant to impose any faith on anyone but rather to propose a faith to people.
During an interactive session with the priests, religious and faculty of the Caritas Institute for Higher Education (CIHE) in Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong, Cardinal Filoni shared his optimism that the relationship between the Church in China and Vatican will improve. 
Maryknoll Father Peter Barry asked why there has yet to be a positive response from the Chinese government even after Pope Francis’ gesture in granting forgiveness to eight illicitly ordained bishops. 
The cardinal responded saying that changes are happening and patience is needed to see them clearly.
“We must not think that everything becomes good overnight. ‘We are right and you are wrong’ attitude is not helpful. We should be open not only to give them, but also receive from them. Learn what is good in them,” he said. 
“The future of the Church in China would stand stable on the three legs of the government, the Vatican and the Church in China. All the three are important,” he added.
Cardinal Filoni further explained that one key word of Pope Francis is “inclusive” and he asks to open the windows and be inclusive. To him, no one is an enemy, but a friend who thinks differently. And the pope believes not in uniformity but diversity in love. 

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