Sunday, 21 January 2007

Vatican tribute to faithful Chinese Catholics

Vatican, Jan. 20, 2007 ( - At the conclusion of a special 2-day meeting on the Church in China, the Vatican announced on January 20 that Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) plans to write a letter to the Catholics of that country.

Pope Benedict did not attend the meeting held in the apostolic palace on January 19- 20, but he was kept informed about the discussion. The meeting was chaired by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (bio - news), the Vatican Secretary of State; other participants included prelates from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao as well as Vatican officials involved in China policy.

In a statement released by the Vatican press office at the conclusion of the meeting, the participants paid tribute to the many Chinese Catholics who have uncompromisingly maintained their loyalty to the Holy See, “sometimes at the cost of severe suffering.” They also noted that, despite pressure from the government and the Catholic Patriotic Association, nearly all of the Chinese bishops are now in communion with Rome. Moreover the Church continues to grow rapidly in China, the statement noted.

The January 20 statement downplays the tensions between Rome and Beijing that had prompted the Vatican to convene the special meeting. The closing statement refers only to the need for “constructive dialogue” with the Chinese government to overcome “the misunderstandings of the past.”

The Vatican statement indicated that Pope Benedict would write to the Catholics of China, but did not offer further information about the Pope's plans, nor a date when that message could be expected.

Friday, 19 January 2007

HONG KONG Oldest Chinese Priest Celebrates 110th Birthday

HONG KONG (UCAN) -- Before the ferry anchored, a Trappist monk with a long, white beard was already waving from the pier. Father Nicholaus Kao Se-tsean, 110, then greeted each person as the visitors landed.

An hour-long journey by boat had brought them from downtown Hong Kong to Our Lady of Joy Abbey on Lantau Island. They came to "celebrate the miracle of the longevity of Father Kao," said Dom Anastasius Li, the abbot and main celebrant at a special Mass to celebrate Father Kao's birthday on Jan. 15.

Joining Father Kao as concelebrants were four other Trappist monks and Monsignor Joseph Chiang, director of the National Office for the Chinese Apostolate in the United States. He, like Father Kao, is from Fuzhou diocese in mainland China. "The older the wine, the finer it will be," and the wine in a 110-year-old wineskin is fine indeed, the abbot told the 150 guests from mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan in his homily.

At the birthday party after the Mass, the honoree blew out candles on three huge birthday cakes, singeing his beard in the process. Catholics honored the centenarian monk by giving him three bows, a Chinese tradition for showing respect to seniors. Speaking in the Fuzhou dialect, Father Kao told the guests he believed he was the oldest priest in the world, edging out a 109-year-old priest in Spain. His remark was translated into Mandarin by Monsignor Chiang, who was born two years after Father Kao's priestly ordination and who served as Father Kao's altar boy in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, 1,640 kilometers southeast of Beijing.

"The Blessed Mother believed I had been good and asked Jesus to give me 100 years of life. When I turned 100, she asked Jesus to add 10 more," the senior monk joked, removing rosary beads from his pocket. He said he has used them every day for 74 years. Father Kao's grandnephew Kao Bin came with his wife from Fuzhou. The couple, with whom the elderly priest stayed several times before, on visits, told UCA News that their granduncle's respect for the Blessed Mother and his filial piety to his mother have greatly impacted the younger generation.
Father Kao was born in Changle city, in Fuzhou diocese, in 1897, and was baptized in 1915. After being ordained a priest in 1933, he served in the cathedral parish. He then spent 40 years preaching in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. He survived two world wars, including difficult times during the Japanese occupation of China (1937-1945).

Tang Shi, one of about 20 Taiwan Catholics who came to wish him well, told UCA News his father, he and his son were Father Kao's altar boys. "I came to pay my respect on behalf of my departed parents," Tang said. Nineteen parishioners from Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish of Sibu diocese in Sarawak state, eastern Malaysia, came to the Mass and party. They told UCA News most Chinese Catholics in Sibu are migrants from Fuzhou and "felt a kind of closeness" when Father Kao was there. He often visited parishioners' families and catechumens, they recalled, crediting him for reviving the Chinese Catholic community by re-engaging members who left because they could not understand English liturgies.

In 1972, at age 75, Father Kao left pastoral ministry to enter the Hong Kong community of Trappists, formally the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. He made his perpetual vows at the age of 100. The community has 16 members, most of advanced age. The abbot, in his mid-40s, said having elderly confreres is a blessing. Dom Anastasius told UCA News that some of the monks were not present because they celebrated with their oldest member on Jan. 14 and had returned to their contemplative routine.

Father Kao told UCA News at the celebration that he too prays every day for world peace and evangelization. He added that having done so much in his life, he is satisfied. The one thing left to do, that he has never done, he said, would be "returning to the heavenly Father."

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Benedict outdraws John Paul II again in 2006

Pope Benedict continues to attract large crowds to all his talks with figures for attendance at Vatican public events up again in 2006 over 2005 figures - the last year with John Paul II as Pope.

Zenit reports that more than 3.2 million faithful and pilgrims attended public meetings in 2006 with Benedict XVI in the Vatican or the papal summer residence.

The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household reported this figure, which does not include those who attended meetings with the Pope during his apostolic visits within and outside of Italy.

The number of faithful and pilgrims includes participants in the Wednesday general audiences, special audiences, liturgical celebrations and the recitation of the Angelus.

Last year, 45 general audiences were held, attended by a total of 1,031,500 visitors.

Special audiences gathered 357,120 visitors.

Crowds were the largest in April with 196,000 individuals attending celebrations.

In addition, 1,295,000 people took part in the recitation of the Angelus.

In 2005, when Benedict XVI began his pontificate, some 2.85 million people attended public meetings with the Pope.

Fake priest selling fake tickets for Benedict's Brazil trip

Meanwhile, the Pope's popularity has proven too tempting for scammers in Brazil.

Days after the draft itinerary for Benedict first trip to the Americas was announced, a man posing as a Catholic priest has been arrested in Brazil for selling fake tickets to get near Pope Benedict on his scheduled May trip, according to a Reuters report.

Erivandro Ferrer de Lima had charged believers 175 reais ($A100) in cash and another 375 reais ($210) in installments for the possibility of "getting close and touching" the Pope, Police Inspector Rosicleide de Castro said by telephone from Fortaleza in the north eastern Ceara state.

Lima carried a false credential from the Brazilian Bishops Conference, held Mass and heard hundreds of confessions to prey on his victims, Castro said.

According to the Archdiocese of Aparecida, the Holy Father plans to arrive in Sao Paulo on 9 May, landing at the Guarulhos International Airport.

Benedict will then travel on 13 May to Aparecida, 170 kilometres from Sao Paulo, where he will open the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, and preside over the opening sessions.

The conference, which will reflect on the theme "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ: That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him," will conclude on 31 May.

Benedict XVI, however, will return to Rome, leaving from Guarulhos airport, after opening the conference.