04/09/2013, 00.00
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Pope Francis: "The Church in China is in my heart. I pray for her every day "

by Eugenia Zhang
During a solemn Mass of thanksgiving for the election of a new pope, Cardinal Tong describes the highlights of his meeting with Francis: "He kissed my hand to show his love for and devotion to our Church, a gesture that moved me deeply. I gave him a statue of Our Lady of Sheshan which is now in his room. "Thanks to Benedict XVI: "He paved the way for reconciliation."

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - "The Church in China is in my heart," Pope Francis told Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong in the Vatican in March.  In his homily at a Mass celebrating the inauguration of the Pope Francis at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong April 8, Cardinal Tong shared his recent encounters with the new pope regarding the Church in China.

The Mass, concelebrated by Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, and dozens priests, was attended by about 1,000 faithful. More than 25 pastors from Christian Churches, including 4 bishops of Anglican Church and 2 metropolitans from Orthodox Church, and diplomats from 15 countries, including Argentina, attended.

Immediately after the counting of the ballots, Card. Tong recalled, the new Pope "first went to embrace Cardinal Ivan Dias who had difficulty in walking. In my turn, I presented Pope Francis a small bronze Chinese statue of Our Lady of Sheshan, and said, "the Catholics in China love you and will pray for you. Also, we ask for your care for all Chinese Catholics, and please pray for us." Pope Francis smiled and said, "Chinese Catholics have given many testimonies to the Universal Church." To my surprise, he kissed my right hand to show his love and devotion for the Church in China. This gesture moved me deeply".

Two days later on April 15, Cardinal Tong met with the Pope again: "He told me that the statute was in his room and that the Marian statue reminds him of Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier's arrival in China more than 460 years ago, now he will never forget the Catholics in China".

The subject of the Church in China was also discussed in the lead up to Conclave. Cardinal Tong, in his homily, recalled the words he told other cardinals about his concern for the Church in China. He said the Mainland Catholics thanked Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for their care, and regarded Pope Benedict's 2007 letter as a document to guide them to be reconciled with each other.

The 73-year old Chinese prelate said it is hoped that a dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese government will resume, and that the Church in China will achieve full communion with the Universal Church.

He reiterated the commitment of the Hong Kong diocese. "With the Lord's blessing and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church in Hong Kong is always happy to serve as a Bridge Church between the Church in China and the Universal Church," he noted.


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