ROME (UCAN): While the troubled relationship between the Vatican and Beijing remains unresolved, the Chinese Catholic community in Italy is preparing for a prayer day to mark the 10th anniversary of the letter penned to Catholics in China in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI.
“The aim of our prayer day is to show the faith and harmony of the Chinese Catholic people and express their communion and friendship with the universal Church. It is also to stimulate and promote the evangelistic zeal of the community,” Father Kong Xianming, the chaplain to the community in Italy, commented.
The annual World Prayer Day for the Church in China commemorates the letter from the pope, which deals with the willingness of the Vatican to negotiate with Beijing.
In addition, it talks directly to the problems of reconciliation between the official and unofficial communities within the Church, state control of Church life and papal authority to appoint bishops.
The letter also contains guidelines for pastoral life, including concelebration at Masses with clergy from the official and unofficial communities standing alongside each other and the announcing of the end of the special privileges granted to the unofficial community in the early 1980s to ordain bishops prior to notifying the Holy See.
The Chinese community in Italy has held the May 24 day of prayer in different cities since 2008, the first year after the letter was published on 30 June 2007. This year they have chosen May 20 to 21 in Napoli.
Father Xianming said Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, where approximately 100 Chinese Catholic people live, has promised to preside at Mass during the two days at the Church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli.
It is not easy to organise the event as “it is customarily for the host to pay for the accommodation and catering of those who attend as a portion of them are students studying in Rome. Three coaches will be needed to bring them here,” Father Xianming pointed out, estimating that catering for 300 students and migrants would cost about €10,000 ($93,000).
Ten years on from the penning of the letter, the Vatican and the Chinese government are still attempting to reach an understanding regarding the appointment of bishops, a process over which both claim authority.
Though negotiations picked up in 2016, the latest round of talks, scheduled for February, have been delayed according to Church sources both in and outside China.