01/30/2014, 00.00
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Chinese priest: For the Year of the Horse, greater integration with Italians

Fr. Joseph Zhang cares for the Chinese Catholic community in Milan. Speaking to AsiaNews he says: "Thanks to Cardinal Bagnasco for the greetings for the Lunar New Year. It is a tangible sign of improved relations between the communities. But more needs to be dine by both sides to have a real closeness".

Rome (AsiaNews ) - The Lunar New Year " is the most important festival for Chinese people all over the world . We want to thank the president of the CEI for the good wishes addressed to us , and I pray that with the new Year of the Horse will bring more determined steps towards a full integration between the Chinese and the Italian communities", says Fr. Joseph Zhang, the Chinese Catholic chaplain of Milan.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr . Zhang exlains that New Year's Eve "officially starts tomorrow, but we do not have a chance to do anything before Sunday, 2.  We will celebrate together with a Mass at 10.30 am in our local parish: the ceremony will be bilingual, Italian and Chinese. After the mass we perform the rite for our departed ancestors [ in which the dead are remembered and their virtues honored- ed], and then we will make a procession through Chinatown. Soon after, we're going to eat together in a restaurant, of course a Chinese restaurant. During lunch there will be some entertainment, songs and dances, and then the traditional red envelope will be handed out ["hong bao", a greeting printed on a card within a red envelope ed.] Inside there will be some money and a saint, to wish material and above all spiritual wealth for the Year of the Horse".

The festivities of the Lunar New Year have become familiar even in Italy: "We are guests in a parish, so we can not do too much. But the fact that so many Italian friends will be celebrating with us also shows that the situation of the Chinese community is improving. Yet decisive steps are still needed for a full integration: the second generation of Chinese in Italy must have a child, and these children will achieve full integration. At the moment there are still some obstacles that must be overcome together. "

In any case, said Fr . Zhang, " in Milan after the riots of 2010 , relations are improving. You can also see the Italians in Via Sarpi stores, and this is very important for community harmony. For the New Year I hope that Italians will be closer to the Chinese , while the Chinese become more open. Business relations are not enough, we must build personal relations between the two communities. In this sense  I am grateful to Cardinal Bagnasco for the greeting addressed to us during the opening session of the CEI . "

Opening the Permanent Episcopal Council, January 27, the archbishop of Genoa said: "On the occasion of the Chinese New Year, we express affectionate closeness to those who live and work in our country , in the hope that their living conditions can grow according to the expectations of human dignity and tragic events , such as those that took place tragically in Prato, never recur. "

The cardinal was referring to the blaze on 1st December 2013 in a textile factory owned by a Chinese group in Tuscany . Seven people were killed in the fire, all illegal immigrants, the drama threw the spotlight on the situation of the Chinese community in Italy - about 150 thousand people, of which 40 thousand in Prato - that is constrained to work grueling shifts in unsafe environments.

Immediately after the massacre Fr . Francis Xavier Wang, chaplain of the Chinese community in Prato, told AsiaNews: "The problem is that the Chinese are not safety-conscious since this kind of tragedy fortunately has never occurred before. Sometimes hazardous materials are used in a cavalier manner, increasing the danger. There are often no fire prevention equipment, and some employers lock doors and gates to supervise better workers. This painful lesson will help us understand that safety always comes first, and hopefully everyone will get it. "

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in East Asia. This year it falls on the 31st January, when the snake will give way to the horse. Chinese communities, at home and abroad , celebrate this anniversary by bringing the family together, paying off all their debts and eating dishes together that augur prosperity and good health.


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