08/22/2005, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN – WYD
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From Cologne hopes for Church unity in China

by Gao Qingnian
The Pope's presence and being together push official and underground Christians beyond World Youth Day to bear witness together. "We forgive the government which is suppressing us".

Cologne (AsiaNews) - Dongyan ("Eastern Swallow") is a 30-year-old Chinese woman who took part in World Youth Day in Cologne. She has spent time in jail, and were it not for the fact that she used a fake name she would not have been able to get a passport and visa to travel to Germany alone where she participated in the catechesis and the meetings with Pope Ratzinger.

"It is my first trip outside China," she told AsiaNews. "When I found myself with people of different languages and races, all together praying and listening, I understood that the Catholic Church is one family".

Dongyan went to the catechesis held at St Augustin and at the Church of the Verbites. There, she met people who, like herself, were from the underground Church, and people from the official Church as well as Catholics from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau for a total of about 500 people.

"I learnt from that experience that we Chinese Catholics must live in unity more. We are a unique Church. Perhaps this is the gift I am taking back to China: accept one another, whether official or not, so as to be united in the Christian witness".

Dongyan said that sometimes there is friction and bias between one branch of the Church and the other. Underground Catholics are branded fanatics—an underground bishop who welcomes a priest from the official Church runs the risk of being treated as a traitor to the faith.

But, in her view, "the time has come for greater unity. And the Pope is the centre and sign of this unity. In Cologne, I was moved by the fact that we were all with him and this has given me hope for the unity of the Chinese Church. It is high time that in China, Christians start accepting and forgive each other."

Chinese society, which is undergoing social and economic changes, "needs our witness," Dongyan said.

More and more people are seeking God. "A 28-year-old friend of mine was left by her husband and was on the verge of killing herself," she said. "Suicide is happening more frequently in China. I tried to keep her company; we read the Gospels together and she was baptised a year ago. Then, it was her mother's turn. There is so much spiritual poverty in China, that witness by Christians is needed".

Dongyan was born into a Christian family. Many of her relatives were martyrs. For example, her grandfather's brother was killed during the Cultural Revolution. She was herself in trouble with the police; in addition to doing some jail time, the police searched her home and confiscated religious material.

"In Cologne I learnt that I must pass on the mercy God gave me. I want to forgive the government which continues to suppress us by denying us freedom, jailing us without reason, treating us unjustly. God shall change China in His own time, but He will be able to change the country if we change."

Dongyan dreams of the future day when Benedict XVI will come to China. "It would be beautiful to have the World Youth Day in China, holding a vigil and mass at the altar of the Temple of Heavens, where the ancient emperors used to pray."

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