05/12/2017, 16.33
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Pope Francis, Matteo Ricci, and missionaries on Taiwan and mainland TV

by Xin Yage

Funding for the production has been raised in parishes and charity dinners on the island. For the archbishop of Taipei, "Such great participation shows our deep love for the pope's mission" and the Church in China.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – The third season of a weekly TV show on Pope Francis (Oh my God 哈 囉 教宗!) ended in a great fundraising dinner with more than a thousand donors, the best event of its kind in the recent history of the diocese of Taipei.

First things first. Oh my God 教宗! Is the title of Taiwan's long television marathon about Pope Francis and the Catholic community’s pastoral and social work on the island. Last week its third season ended (39 episodes so far) on Taiwan TV and is available online for free on KPS (Kuangchi Program Service, 光啟 社) and through Apple and Google apps.

It is the story of the many leading figures who built hospitals, schools, places of worship, and migrant shelters. It is especially the story of ordinary folks who made available what they had, or their free time, to offer it to others, the community, and the poor. The stories are very moving, about how little can go a long way as an expression of solidarity and faith.

The authorities have recognised the work of these people. the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry sponsored and broadened the initiative with an English-language insert in the Taiwan Panorama magazine, featuring a detailed description of the work of nine filmmakers in the series.

Now the Taiwanese TV series will take a break, but its great work has been heard even in mainland China where plans are underway to make a documentary on the historical roots of the Church's mission in China, starting with the emblematic figure of Matteo Ricci. International fundraising for this has already started.

"This fundraising was very special,” one of KPS's accountants said, “because the money that is being raised goes almost entirely to one of the mainland China’s biggest TV production companies to make a documentary about Matteo Ricci, which is linked to Pope Francis’s message.”

The question that went along with the fundraising was: "How to adapt this TV show for the mainland in Taipei?"

Father Emilio Zanetti (蔡明隆 神父), director of KPS's fund-raising department, talked about his marathon among diocesan parishes. "They were three great months, even though some jinx told us that we would not be able to sell the documentary, either as Ricci and China, or Missionaries and Beijing. These are delicate issues that can scare people in Taiwan or make them turn inward. But we like challenges. That's precisely why we did it, beginning with prayers and the strength they give to build communities here on the island, Rome and the mainland.”

“As Benedict XVI wrote in sections 5 and 8 of his Letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, there is only one Church. If a pope says this, why can’t we believe it too? Our bishops, the faithful, and the whole clergy provided outstanding support. We had planned three fundraising dinners, but given the overwhelming participation, one was enough to reach the funds needed to make the documentary."

His assistant and colleague, Mr Dean Ferng, agrees. "After three months of advertising and announcements during Sunday Masses in more than 30 parishes, attending meetings in nine schools, three hospitals and two universities, meeting thousands of the faithful, I never encountered a single objection to the pope’s dialogue with the Chinese people. Our goal was to talk to people, not follow statistics collected by academics.”

“From what we saw, parishioners think by themselves with the sensitivity of the gospel. They are very intelligent and open-minded. They have already figured out one thing that involves them emotionally, namely that dialogue is not only a good and Christian thing to do – loving one’s fellows on the mainland and around the world – but it is a task in which everybody must give a hand and be active. Amazing!"

The final evening attracted 600 guests plus more than a thousand donors who contributed to the fundraising. Archbishop John Hung’s final remarks sealed the work done and future projects. "Such great participation shows our deep love for the pope's mission,” he said. “We want to continue to give our support. For this reason, we have to repeat this evening’s experience; there shall be a second time!"

This is the strength of the mission in the media, with the certainty of being aired on the world's largest TV network (Nanjing-based Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation with whom KPS has worked for more than a decade), reaching tens of millions of viewers.

In all likelihood, the documentary on Matteo Ricci will be completed and then broadcast in Chinese at the beginning of next year. Afterwards, it will also be shown in Taiwan and later dubbed in other languages.

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