08/04/2023, 22.46
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Lisbon WYD: young Chinese and Turkish Catholics 'enthusiastic' to be with the Pope

Some 50 young Chinese made it to the WYD, evidence of the Church's care for their country and community, despite difficulties. Yesterday the pope met a group of young Turks from the areas affected by last February’s earthquake. Today he met charity workers and volunteers, praising “concrete” love that “gets its hands dirty".

Lisbon (AsiaNews) – World Youth Day provides an opportunity for participants to offer their personal stories to a Church that, as Francis put it, has "room for everyone," sharing  experiences in which everyone, as the pope said yesterday, can participate in an event in which he is "calling us by name”.

This also applies to a small group of Chinese Catholics who managed to overcome obstacles and come to Portugal as well as young Turks who met the pontiff yesterday at the nunciature in a private audience.

For the latter, this was a touching moment, especially for those who came from those areas in Anatolia hit by a devastating earthquake on 6 February and who found joy and consolation in the pope’s hugs.

For the Chinese Catholics, as things got “tough and complicated,” achieving one’s goal is ever  more beautiful. For 50 of them, staying in Lisbon until Sunday is particularly important, a warm and colourful group who marched with their country’s flag, waved with pride (pictured) in the streets of the Portuguese capital.

"Coming was not easy,” said a Chinese priest who lives in Italy and met the Chinese youth in Lisbon. The Chinese Catholic “Patriotic Association did little" to help them reach Portugal, where accommodations are “very expensive nowadays,” he told AsiaNews. The Association is the Communist Party’s official Catholic organisation.

The young Turks and Chinese are part of the million or so youth from around the world who heeded the pope's call to participate in the 37th World Youth Day.

"Chinese Catholics are very enthusiastic" about being a part to this event of the global Church. “A young man from Hebei province said that 'we came here each on their own. We registered on the WYD website,” the source said. Their diocese did not provide any support, spiritual or organisational; still, "we got a tourist visa" to travel to Portugal.

"I am happy that some of my compatriots have managed to reach Lisbon. Thus, China is also represented on the ground and not absent from this important event," unlike other past large-scale meetings and gatherings.

The priest has already visited Fatima where Pope Francis himself will go tomorrow, to celebrate a Mass with priests from different countries.

“At the end of the Mass, one of them asked me if there are Chinese here (in Lisbon, for  WYD). This shows that the universal Church cares for China, even if the number [of those present] is small.”

Yesterday Pope Francis took part in the official opening ceremony in the late afternoon at Parque Eduardo VII with the patriarch of Lisbon and over 500,000 young people; today he attended other events, including the confessions of young people at the Jardim Vasco da Gama.

The meeting with charity workers at the Centro Paroquial de Serafina was followed with the most important event of the day, the Way of the Cross in the evening with young people at the same park that hosted yesterday’s inauguration.

After greeting the Patriarch of Lisbon, Card Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, Francis addressed those present, calling on them to experience the joy of welcoming and opening themselves to dialogue with the Lord and bear witness to his closeness.

He urged them to be wary of "wolves" with “smiles of false goodness" or pay any attention to the "illusions of the virtual world".

In today’s meeting with charity workers, in the presence of Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the pontiff mentioned the Virgin Mary’s visit to her elderly relative Elizabeth. Her act of a charity is the root and goal of the Christian journey, a presence that is "love in action".

Such a journey has three aspects: “doing good together, acting concretely and being close to the most vulnerable.”

The first stresses togetherness, “living, helping and loving together," embracing “young and old, the healthy and sick, all together,” not letting “ourselves to be ‘defined’ by our sickness or difficulty.”

The second call is about "acting concretely" because the Church "is not an archaeological museum” but a "well that provides water" today as in the past.

“When we do not waste time complaining about things, but instead focus on meeting people’s concrete needs, with joy and trust in God’s providence, then wonderful things can happen,” like the many initiatives promoted by Portuguese charities whose representatives attended the meeting.

Because of technical problems with the lighting, the pope could not finish reading his  prepared text. So, off the cuff, he said that no love is platonic, for it is real, and gets “its hands dirty.”

He rebuked those who feel "disgust" at the sight of a sick person or poverty.

“How many useless lives [. . .] pass through life without leaving a trace,” he lamented. Yet reality knocks, showing people who take care of children with cancer and their parents, people who "leave a trace,” Francis said.

“There is no WYD without this reality, without getting your hands dirty" for acting this way generates "life" and for this "I thank you".

(John Ai contributed to this article)

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