Pope Urges Normalization of Relations Between Holy See and China

VATICAN CITY, OCT 25, 2001 (VIS) - Pope John Paul has asked pardon for errors committed by missionaries and others in China in the colonial periods of that nation's history, and has urged the "normalization of relations between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See," saying this "would undoubtedly have positive repercussions for humanity's progress."

The Pope's thoughts were expressed in a Message to the participants in the October 24-25 international meeting in Rome on "Matteo Ricci: For a Dialogue between China and the West." The meeting was organized by the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University and by the Italian-Chinese Institute to mark the fourth centenary of the arrival of Jesuit missionary and scientist Matteo Ricci, S.J., in Beijing.

In the Message, released late yesterday afternoon in Italian, English and Chinese, the Pope highlighted Fr. Ricci's 28 years in China, first arriving there in 1582. Only on January 24, 1601, "after 21 long years of avid and intense study of the language, history and culture of China," did he reach Beijing where he lived the rest of his life, dying on May 11, 1610 at the age of 57.

The Holy Father notes then when Fr. Ricci arrived at the imperial court "He introduced himself as a celibate religious who sought no privilege at court, asking only to be able to place at the service of His Majesty his own person and the expertise in the sciences which he had acquired in the 'great West' from which he had come."

He remarks that "Historically and culturally (Fr. Ricci) was a pioneer, a precious connecting link between West and East, between European Renaissance culture and Chinese culture, and between the ancient and magnificent Chinese civilization and the world of Europe."

Calling Matteo Ricci's work "enduringly relevant," the Pope states that "Father Ricci based his entire scientific and apostolic methodology upon two pillars, to which he remained faithful until his death, despite many difficulties and misunderstandings, both internal and external: first, Chinese neophytes, in embracing Christianity, did not in any way have to renounce loyalty to their country; second, the Christian revelation of the mystery of God in no way destroyed but in fact enriched and complemented everything beautiful and good, just and holy, in what had been produced and handed down by the ancient Chinese tradition."

"The Chinese people, especially in more recent times, have set themselves important objectives in the field of social progress. ... The Church has very much at heart the values and objectives which are of primary importance also to modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the wise management of the phenomenon of globalization, and the civil progress of all peoples."

The Pope continues: "As Father Ricci wrote precisely in Beijing, ... so too today the Catholic Church seeks no privilege from China and its leaders, but solely the resumption of dialogue in order to build a relationship based upon mutual respect and deeper understanding."

"Let it be known to China: the Catholic Church has a keen desire to offer, once more, her humble and selfless service for the good of Chinese Catholics and of all the people of the country."

"However," John Paul II affirmed, "History reminds us of the unfortunate fact that the work of members of the Church in China was not always without error. ... Moreover, their action was often conditioned by difficult situations connected with complex historical events and conflicting political interests. ... In certain periods of modern history, a kind of 'protection' on the part of European political powers not infrequently resulted in limitations on the Church's very freedom of action and had negative repercussions for the Church in China."

"I feel deep sadness for these errors and limits of the past, and I regret that in many people these failings may have given the impression of a lack of respect and esteem for the Chinese people on the part of the Catholic Church, making them feel that the Church was motivated by feelings of hostility towards China. For all of this I ask the forgiveness and understanding of those who may have felt hurt in some way by such actions on the part of Christians."

"The Church must not be afraid of historical truth and she is ready C with deeply-felt pain C to admit the responsibility of her children."

The Holy Father writes that Fr. Ricci "defined a friend as 'the other half of myself, indeed another 'I''. And it is with this renewed and deeply-felt friendship towards all the Chinese people that I express the hope that concrete forms of communication and cooperation between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China may soon be established."

"Historically, in ways that are certainly different but not in opposition to one another, China and the Catholic Church are two of the most ancient 'institutions' in existence and operating on the world scene: both, though in different domains B one in the political and social, the other in the religious and spiritual B encompass more than a billion sons and daughters. It is no secret that the Holy See, in the name of the whole Catholic Church and, I believe, for the benefit of the whole human family, hopes for the opening of some form of dialogue with the Authorities of the People's Republic of China."

Pope John Paul II concludes: "The present moment of profound disquiet in the international community calls for a fervent commitment on the part of everyone to creating and developing ties of understanding, friendship and solidarity among peoples. In this context, the normalization of relations between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See would undoubtedly have positive repercussions for humanity's progress."

Vatican Information Service
25. oktober 2001

av Webmaster publisert 27.10.2001, sist endret 27.10.2001 - 11:21