Pope Benedict XVI : Bishops of other Chinese dioceses would visit Rome

Vatican City, Jun. 27, 2008 - As he met on June 27 with a small group of bishops from Hong Kong and Macao, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that bishops of other Chinese dioceses would soon be free to visit Rome.

The Holy Father told the Chinese bishops, who were making the ad limina visits, "I and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your brother bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church."

The Chinese government, which has sought for years to establish an independent "Cathoilc Patriotic Association" subject to the Communist party rather than to the Holy See, does not ordinarily allow Catholic bishops to travel to Rome. In 2005, Pope Benedict issued an invitation to four Chinese bishops to participate in the October sessions of the Synod of Bishops-- a gesture that was widely interpreted as an effort to improve relations between Rome and Beijing. But after several weeks of confusion the Chinese government refused permission for the bishops to make the trip to Rome. In the Macao and Hong Kong dioceses, the Pope said, the key challenges include proper formation of young priests and promotion of Catholic schools. Both, he said, are critical to "the new evangelization which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church."

The Holy Father encouraged the bishops to "continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China," by providing material support, offering opportunities for the training of Chinese clerics, and acting as conduits for information and moral support.

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