09/08/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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"A Church that surprises" in China: Mondo e Missione special

Important bishops (like Jin Luxian, Shanghai bishop) feature, as well as testimonies of persecution, like Fr Tan Tiande of Guangzhou, together with priests charged with important missions, sisters and religious who, with discretion and tenacity, testify to the Gospel of charity although they live in a context that prevents the realization of social works.

Milan (AsiaNews) – "Every so often, someone asks me: but do you belong to the official or the underground church? And I reply: to the church of Christ". The words of Martha Yang, a 50-year-old woman from Beijing, are symbolic, not least because she is not just any lay person. Martha teaches patrology and spirituality at the capital's diocesan seminary. A month after the death of John Paul II, she was in St Peter's Square with a group of believers and a banner "Pilgrims of Beijing".

Martha Yang is one voice of China's Catholic Church who Gerolamo Fazzini met during a trip to major cities of the immense country: Guangzhou, Xi'an, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing. A special feature emerged from the trip: "China: Church, a thousand surprises", published in the latest issue (August – September) of Mondo e Missione (World and Mission), a monthly magazine of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

The Church of China tells its story in this special feature of Mondo e Missione. The magazine has announced that important bishops (like Jin Luxian, Shanghai bishop) will speak, together with priests charged with important missions, sisters and religious who, with discretion and tenacity, testify to the Gospel of charity although they live in a context that prevents the realization of social works. Testimonies of persecution abound, like Fr Tan Tiande of Guangzhou, who spent 30 years in forced labour. But there are also many ordinary lay people: university lecturers, entrepreneurs, pensioners and youth... "It is the ordinary Church, which usually does not make the news (Rome-Beijng ties are all that seem to exist for our daily newspapers)," writes Mondo e Missione. "There are voices, testimonies, anecdotes, a viva-voce collection of protagonists of stories of suffering and great toil, but also of great courage and determination. An amazing picture emerges, a fascinating and complex reality in motion. It puts into focus a reality that goes well beyond the stereotypical image of two contrasting and impenetrable blocks (the 'Patriotic Church' on one side and the 'clandestine' church on the other). The Chinese Church is afflicted by immense difficulties (lacking economic means and adequately formed personnel) and all the same it is courageously living up to the challenge of facing up to modernity. A modernity that, as the credibility of the party and the strength of Communist ideology crumble, ushers in new threats (the myth of easy wealth, consumerism, the breaking down of relationships...). But it cannot suffocate the longing for God that moves in the heart of the Chinese people."

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