04/07/2005, 00.00
VATICAN - CHINA
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The Pope's love shall make the Church blossom in China

Despite Beijing's hostility, Chinese pilgrims in St Peter's say how much Pope John Paul II loved China and how much they loved him.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "My greatest regret is that the Pope never made it to China," said Fr John Baptist Tong, a priest from Xinjiang, as he was leaving St Peter's Basilica where he said goodbye to the Pope.

"China was close to his heart, but he could not come", Father Tong noted. "He said so himself several times: 'My morning prayer is for China'".

"John Paul II gave the Church and Catholics in China help and confidence because he never left us alone. He took advantage of every opportunity to maintain contact with the Chinese government but to no avail".

"We have faith and hope in the future," Father Tong explained. "All we must do is pray for our rulers".

A seminarian from the underground Church in central China, who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons, confirmed the great affection Chinese Catholics have for the Pope.

"Every parish celebrated a mass for the Pontiff," the seminarian told AsiaNews. "Chinese Catholics feel the same as the faithful do around the world: they are mourning the Pope and hope that his successor might visit China".

But such hope faces a seemingly insurmountable wall: the Chinese authorities.

"The main problem is the Chinese government," the seminarian warned. Never the less, "Chinese Catholics are praying and will go on praying every day that whoever the new Pontiff is, he shall be able to visit our country".

A man walks by with Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way under his arm, a book that tells the story of

Karol Wojtyła's fifty-year episcopate. He is from southern China but cannot reveal his name or say which city he is from.

 "I am here to say goodbye to John Paul II for the last time," he said. "As Pope, John Paul II tried to reach out to mainland China but failed. But I am convinced that with his and Heaven's help his successor will be able to do it".

As to the Pope's legacy, the Chinese Catholic said that "without a doubt, the way he bore witness of Christ elicited respect among all Chinese communities, not only Catholics."

"Another important factor," the man added, "was his knowledge of China. People felt close to him as a man and as the head of the Church, and in the future his example will lead to the blossoming of the Church in China".

He ended by saying "that like this crowd I am moved by his witness. Reading this book makes me want to know more about his life". (VFP-LF)

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