01/18/2004, 00.00
China - Vatican
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"Holy Father, next year come to Beijing for New Year's"

Chinese Catholics respond to Pope John Paul II's New Year's greetings.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - John Paul II's warm greetings to Chinese and Asians celebrating the Lunar New Year immediately created interest and joy in the Chinese world, especially among Catholics.

AsiaNews sources in Beijing spoke about a "great enthusiasm and emotion" that resulted. A Catholic doctor said: "I had been waiting for such a long time for the pope to say something, since it's been awhile since something has been heard regarding relations between China and the Vatican."

"Now I am at peace: this greeting is a sign that the Universal Church has not forgotten us. I know that the pope is still thinking about China deep down in his heart and prays for us. I would like to tell him: Thanks Holy Father, thank you for your words of comfort and support," he said.

"New Year's for us is like a family dinner party, a holiday of unity and renewal. I want to tell the pope that here in Beijing there is always a place for him, that of the head of the family is reserved for you. The Lord performed a miracle in preserving your health. We ask him for another: that you may come to China next year!"

The Chinese year is dedicated every twelve months to a sign of the eastern zodiac. This year is that of the "monkey". According to traditional beliefs, this sign marks a positive year of wealth and prosperity, but also one of anxiety (as monkeys are very volatile). New Year's is a time for families to get together and for friendship. For Chinese it coincides with the beginning of spring and the rebirth of nature. All family members living far from home make every effort to meet up with their family of origin.

A Catholic of the underground Church in Beijing told AsiaNews, "We have been waiting for years and years for the day in which we will join together again in freedom with the Universal Church, with our Catholic brothers and sisters."  

"The monkey is also a symbol of intelligence. This year I hope that all of us will use our intelligence to accelerate this union with the Universal Church. Here in China we have lived through Sars, the crisis of terrorism, the economic crisis, and rampant corruption. I hope that the new year will rid us of all this evils. As is tradition, setting off firecrackers serves to ward off evil. But we place our hopes in our intelligence and God's grace," he said. 

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”