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Thursday, July 29, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 29 JUL 2010 (VIS) - Fides, the news agency of the Pontifical Missionary Works, today published a Letter to the Catholic Bishops and Priests of mainland China. The letter bears the signatures of Cardinal Ivan Dias and Archbishop Robert Sarah, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

  "Inspired by celebrations during the Year for Priests, recently concluded, I send to you cordial and brotherly greetings and a word of encouragement for your arduous pastoral duties as shepherds of the flock entrusted to you by the Lord in your noble nation", reads the English-language version of the text. "Your testimony and your messages received here at the missionary congregation fill us with consolation and spur us to pray fervently that the Lord may render you ever stronger in the faith and sustain your activity to propagate the Good News of Jesus Christ in your beloved country".

  "Precisely because the priest is 'Alter Christus' - indeed, 'Ipse Christus' - he must be a Man of God and a Man for others. ... Firstly, a Man of God: that is, a man who leads men and women to God and carries God to men and women. Therefore he must distinguish himself as a man of prayer and an austere style of life, profoundly in love with Christ and, like John the Baptist, proud to proclaim His presence amongst us, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist.

  "Secondly a priest must be a Man for others: a man entirely dedicated to the faithful, youth and adults entrusted to his pastoral care and to all those with whom the Lord Jesus chose to identify Himself or those towards whom He showed special kindness. ... An ecclesiastic will therefore resist any temptation to enrich himself with material goods or seek favours for his family or ethnic group, or nurture unwholesome ambitions of making a career for himself in society or in politics. These things are entirely foreign to the priestly vocation and would be a serious distraction from his mission".

  The text goes on to refer to "the important role of a bishop or priest as an operator of unity within the Church", noting how "this task has a twofold dimension" entailing "communion with the Pope, the 'rock' upon which Jesus chose to build His Church, and union with all the members of the Church.

  "Firstly: communion with the Holy Father. We are all too aware of how some of you suffered in the recent past because of loyalty to the Holy See. We pay homage to each and all. ... The exemplary and courageous loyalty towards the See of Peter demonstrated by Catholics in China, is a precious gift of the Lord.

  "The other dimension of unity among Christians is union among individual members of the ecclesial community. This important challenge you are already tackling, as you seek to strengthen unity within the Church herself".

  Quoting from the homily delivered by the Holy Father on 29 June, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the letter notes how the Church "is subjected to the greatest danger by that which pollutes the faith and Christian life of her members and communities, corroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening her capacity for prophecy and witness, and marring the beauty of her face. ... One of the typical effects of the action of the Evil One is, precisely, the internal division of the ecclesial Community. ... The unity of the Church is rooted in her union with Christ and the cause of full Christian unity - that must ever be sought and renewed from generation to generation - is also sustained by His prayer and His promise".

  The letter concludes: "Let us praise the Lord for your efforts, accomplished and ongoing, for unity within the Church, in faithful response to the indications given by the Holy Father in the Letter he addressed to you on 27 May 2007, and for the results already obtained. May God bless your initiatives so that unity of ministers among themselves and between them and their flock may be ever stronger in Christ and in His Church 'ad maiorem Dei gloriam'".

  Cardinal Dias also gives assurances "of the closeness of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI; with paternal affection he blesses you and all those entrusted to your pastoral care and urges you to continue without fear on the path of holiness, unity and communion, as did the generations which have gone before you".
CEP/                                    VIS 20100729 (760)

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