09/06/2006, 00.00
EUROPE - CHINA
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Seventh European Catholic conference about China

The meeting opens today in Triuggio. It aims to update ways of reading the complex reality experienced by the Chinese church today and its likely evolution.

Milan (AsiaNews) – The situation and prospects of the Catholic Church in China, not least in the light of the government's religious policy and the evolution of ties with the Vatican: a European Catholic conference about China starting today aims to update the ways in which this complex reality is assessed. The conference starts this afternoon at the Sacred Heart Villa in Triuggio (Milan) and finishes on Sunday morning.

The Conference – organized this year by PIME (Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions) whose missionaries have been present in Chinese land since 1958 – will focus on the theme "25 years of encounters with the Church in China: an evaluation, looking to the future" and it will gather experts and scholars from all over the world: Europe, the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

In its seventh edition, the Conference – totally by coincidence – is happening together with the 30th anniversary of Mao Zedong's death (9 September 1976). Just as Mao was becoming a legend in the West, fragments of news were trickling in from China about the devastating impact of Maoist extremism. An elderly missionary recalls: "When I met a group of friends in Rome in January 1970, questions on the future of Christianity in China remained unanswered. Several years would pass before the first, timid testimonies appeared, about how the faith had survived in the immense country. This is how the first international meeting of reflection about China came to be (Lovanio 1974), organized by the 'Pro Mundi Vita' Catholic Documentation Centre in Lovanio in collaboration with the Lutheran Studies Centre of Geneva."

The situation in China has changed completely since the Maoist era although there is still news – now and again – of heavy restrictions on religious freedom (arrests and detention of bishops, priests, laity...). There is a need, then, to update ways of reading the situation, adapting them as much as possible to a dynamic reality. This is the aim of the conference which, as a regularly held event, has become a time when European churches show their awareness and closeness to the "sister church" of China.

The Triuggio meeting – attended only by invitation – starts this afternoon at 5.30pm with greetings from the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Milan, Mgr

Angelo Mascheroni, an introductory speech by Mgr Giovanni Giudici, bishop of Pavia and memories of the Hon. Vittorino Colombo, a skilled weaver of Rome-Beijing ties, shared by Fr Angelo Lazzarotto, PIME missionary.

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