LETTER TO PRIESTS IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
VATICAN CITY, 17 NOV 2009 (VIS) – Made public yesterday was a letter from Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. to priests of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, for the occasion of the Year for Priests which was called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the saintly "Cure of Ars".
"In the Letter that the Holy Father addressed to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful in the People’s Republic of China on 27 May 2007, a number of guidelines are indicated for the future journey of the Church", explains the cardinal in his letter which was published in Chinese, English and Italian. "Among those I wish to emphasise reconciliation within the Catholic community and a respectful and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities, without renouncing the principles of the Catholic faith. In this regard, despite the persisting difficulties, the information that has come from different parts of China points also to signs of hope".
Cardinal Bertone also expresses the view that, "at a distance of only two years since the publication of the papal Letter, it does not seem that the time has come to make definitive evaluations. Using the words of the great missionary of China, Fr. Matteo Ricci, I believe we can say that it is still more a time of sowing than of reaping".
"There are", the secretary of State tells Chinese clergy, "various practical ways in which you can make your valuable contribution: for example, by visiting Catholic and non-Catholic families frequently; … increasing efforts to prepare and train good catechists; fostering greater use of charitable services directed especially to children and to sick and old people; … organising special gatherings where Catholics could invite their non-Catholic relatives and friends in order to become better acquainted with the Catholic Church and Christian faith; distributing Catholic literature to non-Catholics".
"In this Year of the Priesthood, I wish to remind you of the source where you can find the strength to be faithful to your important mission, … the Eucharist. … A truly Eucharistic community cannot retreat into itself, as though it were self-sufficient, but must stay in communion with every other Catholic community".
Addressing bishops, Cardinal Bertone says: "Your paternal solicitude will suggest to you, according to the possibilities and conditions of each diocese, suitable initiatives for promoting vocations to the priesthood, such as prayer days and meetings or the opening of places where priests and faithful, especially the young, can come to pray together under the guidance of expert and good priests acting as spiritual directors".
"The Holy Father Benedict XVI realises that ‘in China too, as in the rest of the Church, the need for an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is emerging. Hence the invitation, addressed to you bishops as leaders of ecclesial communities, to think especially of the young clergy who are increasingly subject to new pastoral challenges, linked to the demands of the task of evangelising a society as complex as that of present-day China’".
"The saintly ‘Cure of Ars’ teaches us that the worship given to the Eucharist outside of Mass is of inestimable value in the life of every priest. This worship is closely joined to the celebration of the Eucharist".
After then highlighting how, "if we are united in the Eucharistic Christ, all of the miseries of the world echo in our hearts to implore the mercy of God", the cardinal secretary of State emphasises the need "to seek reconciliation with concrete gestures. … In order to obtain it, there is an urgent need to pay attention also to the human formation of all the faithful, priests and sisters included, because the lack of human maturity, self-control and inner harmony is the most frequent source of misunderstandings, lack of co-operation and conflicts within Catholic communities".
Finally, Cardinal Bertone concludes by "entrusting to the Most Blessed Virgin the wish that your priestly life may be guided more and more by those ideals of the total giving of oneself to Christ and to the Church which inspired the thought and action of the saintly ‘Cure of Ars’".