04/16/2007, 00.00
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Birthday greetings for the Pope from China and around Asia

AsiaNews received greetings and best wishes from bishops, laity and the sisters of Mother Teresa’s order in India and Sri Lanka. Despite the persecution, a Chinese Catholic sends his best wishes, reiterating his fellow Catholics’ loyalty to the Pontiff, waiting for the Pope’s letter to the Church of China.

Rome (AsiaNews) – From China to India and Sri Lanka, many churchmen and women as well as lay people have chosen AsiaNews to send their greetings to the Pope.

A 25-year-old Catholic from the underground Chinese Church in Hebei sent an enthusiastic message. Citing ancient Chinese poets and drawing on his country’s old similes, the young man called Pontiff the Elder man, which is a token of honour in the Confucian tradition, wishing the Pope the longevity of a stork. He also mentioned the many priests and lay people who have “shed blood” to remain loyal to the Pope and the Holy See, saying that every Catholic in China is waiting in prayer for the letter that Benedict XVI promised to address to the Chinese Church. Here is his message (translated from the Italian by AsiaNews):

April 16 is the birthday of our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. The poet Du Fung, who lived at the time of the Tang dynasty, melancholically wrote that “from ancient times it has been rare to reach 70,” but 80 years mean 80 years of storms and trials, 80 years of lifetime struggles. The marks of time have appeared, numerous, on the Holy Father’s head, imperceptibly whitening the hair of the elderly Pope. The hearts of Chinese Catholics go out to our elderly Pope as does mine.

Chinese Catholics are waiting for the Holy Father’s pastoral letter. For some time he has urged Chinese Catholics to accept sacrifices, read the Bible more, and recite the Rosary in order to prepare for the his letter. Let us invoke the Spirit of the Lord to protect our Father and make him an effective sign of the faith’s unity so as to strengthen the faith of Chinese Catholics.

In the last 50 years, many priests and lay people have shed their blood to remain loyal to the Holy Father, maintaining the Catholic tradition alive in China. I and my contemporaries are the Church’s new generation in China. We, too, want to reinforce the unity with the Pope. We want to be in communion with the universal Church and no external force can prevent us from doing so.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path,” (Ps, 119: 105). Holy Father, your words are imprinted in our hearts and we shall never forget them. When I was a teenager I recited from memory the “Ode to the Great Pope”. We still often sing it today. Great Holy Father we love you; dear Holy Father we back and support you. You are Christ’s representative, the sun of the truth that educates the people of God and leads to the Kingdom of god!”

Holy, elderly Pope, let me offer you my congratulations. Happy birthday! May the Lord always bless you; may the grace of the Holy Spirit always be with you. Like the stork, may you always remain young, never age. Always renewing your venerable experience of life, may you always be happy.


Card Telesphore Toppo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, also expressed his best wishes of long life to Pope Benedict XVI, specifically thanking him for his understanding and love for the Church in India. In all of the country’s dioceses, a mass will be celebrated in the Pope’s honour.

“The whole of India is with him and loves him. Pope Benedict has been very close to the Indian Church. The Holy Father has a keen understanding of the conditions under which the Church works and carries out her Mission in India,” Cardinal Toppo said. “Pope Benedict has shown special affection and concern for India, elevating an Indian—Cardinal Ivan Dias—to a position of responsibility overseeing the mission in Asia.”

Mgr Thomas Dabre, bishop of Vasai and an expert theologian involved in promoting inter-faith harmony, sends his greetings as well, remembering the Pontiff’s “great courage” in pursuing ecumenism among Christians and encouraging a dialogue with other religions. As a theologian the prelate told AsiaNews that he was “impressed” by Benedict XVI’s focus on the concept of God as love.

Sister Nirmala, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, sent the Pope a personal message:

“We your children, the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and all over the world and the poor under our care, wish you a very happy birthday! [. . .] We thank God in a very special way for your dear parents and family for their beautiful gift to the Church. We [. . .] assure you of our prayer [. . .]. Please pray for us and bless us.”

Like the men and women of the Indian Church, lay people also remembered this day. Dr John Dayal, chairman of the All India Catholic Union, highlighted the Pope’s strong position on life and the family against the attacks from science that seeks to separate faith and reason in order to act without limits in stem cell research. He further expressed hope that the Holy Father might visit India “as soon as possible.”

Sri Lanka

About a thousand Catholics took part yesterday in a special mass celebrating the second anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate at National Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka in Tewatte.

The service was presided by Mgr Mario Zenari, the country’s apostolic nuncio, and Mgr Oswald Gomis, the archbishop of Colombo. In his homily, Archbishop Gomis reiterated the Sri Lankan Church’s “respect and gratitude” for the Pope to whom he wished God’s “protection to continue his valuable mission.”

Many clergymen and laity attending the ceremony in Tewatte expressed their appreciation for the Pope’s statement during the Easter Urbi et Orbi blessing. On that occasion, the Holy Father appealed to Sri Lanka’s authorities and Tamil rebels to pursue a diplomatic solution to end the bloody civil war that is affecting the country’s northern and eastern regions.

Government representatives also attended the service. Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Karu Jayasuriya said on behalf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the Sri Lankan government appreciated very much Benedict XVI’S “good mission,” adding his own wishes of good health and personal well being for His Holiness.

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