02/15/2007, 00.00
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Chinese priests in Jerusalem for Bible study-visit

by Michele Ferrero
Supported by the Catholic Biblical Federation, 20 teachers from seminaries of the Church in China are visiting holy places and benefiting from lectures on the Bible, ecumenism and spirituality.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Twenty Chinese Catholics, teachers and priests from the People’s Republic of China, will celebrate the New Year of the Pig in the Holy Land.

The group of teachers from Chinese seminaries is in Jerusalem for a month of bible study in the land of Jesus.

Led by Fr Guo Jincai of the National Seminary of Beijing, the group includes teachers from the seminaries of Beijing, central-southern China, Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Shandong, Shenyang, Shanxi, Hebei and Shanghai.

The project was organized by the “Catholic Biblical Federation”, an international organization linked to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, which includes pastoral and biblical institutions from around the world, in collaboration with the German Benedictine Abbey of St Ottilien (Bavaria). The latter is very involved in dialogue with the Chinese Church and last year organized a refresher course on vocational accompaniment, based on spirituality and psychology, for rectors and vice-rectors of Chinese seminaries.

Seminaries in China, due to persecution and difficulties experienced in their relationship with the universal Church, have few teachers who at times are poorly qualified. The formation of seminaries is thus considered to be one of the most urgent needs in the mission of the Chinese Church.

The 20 teachers, most of them priests, arrived in Jerusalem at the end of January and they will stay until 23 February. They are accompanied by two Benedictine priests, Fr Cyrill Schäfer, who speaks Chinese and the archabbot of St. Ottilien Fr Jeremias Schröder, as well as two lay people from the Catholic Biblical Federation: Claudio Ettl and Alexander Schweitzer, currently secretary of the federation.

Sr Maria Ko Hafong, a Salesian, gave a significant contribution to lectures, explanations and guidelines offered. Others who contributed were Fr Ludger Feldkamper SVD (who was secretary of the biblical federation for years); Fr Thomas Maier WF, ecumenism expert; Fr Michele Ferrero SDB; Fr Lionel Goh OFM and Fr Joseph Wong, a Camaldolese monk.

The group had meetings with the main Christian churches present in Jerusalem apart from the Latin Catholics: Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenians. They visited the diocesan seminary of Beit-jiala and some Orthodox monasteries in the desert.

The group visited main biblical sites, from the Holy Sepulchre to Gethsemane, from Bethlehem to the Cenacle, from Qumran to Hebron, from Jericho to Galilee 

 A chance but close-up and direct encounter of Israeli police tear gas during an Arab rally in the Old City added a special touch to explanations about tensions prevalent in the Holy Land.

The participants have an intense timetable packed with lectures and excursions yielding an abundance of information and experiences, which will surely bear much fruit in their teaching in Chinese seminaries.

Fr Chen Binshan has been a tireless translator while Mr Du Hailong has helped in the logistics and organizing sector.

The first three weeks were spent in Jerusalem and the last will be in Galilee, in Taghba, where among other things participants will celebrate the Chinese New Year on 18 February.

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