China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2013/Dec

A Year to Remember

Early in the year we learned that Pope Benedict XVI wished to step down from the papacy.

This was quite a surprise because even though we knew about his failing health, we had never heard of a pope in recent times finding the freedom to resign.

He officially stepped down at the end of February.

Cardinals from around the world journeyed to Rome for the conclave to choose his successor.

Jorge Cardinal Bergolio, from Buenos Aires in Argentina, was elected on March 13 and took the name, Francis.

He is the first pontiff from the southern hemisphere and also the first Jesuit to be elected to this position in the Church.

Pope Francis is now recognised around the world. He is in the media headlines almost daily, because of the way he is inspiring many people. The pope wants to serve the people and he is doing this in his own style.

He walks around Rome in a simple white cassock with a white zucchetto on his head. He lives simply among his neighbours rather than in the papal apartments.

Pope Francis has weekly meetings with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and rides in an open pope mobile, shakes hands, kisses babies, blesses the sick and handicapped, including even giving photo opportunities to people.

For many of us, we see Pope Francis living out the gospel and the teachings of Jesus. He reminds us of how we will be judged. As in the words in the gospel tell us:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matthew 25:34-40).

Pope Francis is inviting Christians everywhere to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ and identifies evangelisation as the centre of the Church’s concern.

To know Jesus, not as an idea or as a concept, but as a living, divine person who, out of love for us, offers himself to us as a gift.

Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) was released on November 25.

It is a blueprint for evangelisation framed in 84 pages. He is moving fast to advance his “dream of a missionary impulse, capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world.”

The pope thinks we need to speak boldly about Christ and the gospel and do it with joyful lives, engaging the world.

Amongthe topics are: Renewed Personal Encounter, Judging Market Economics, Stirring Intense Debate, The Role of Women and many more.

Pope Francis asks this question of us: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Impact in China

A priest in China told me that he is highly impressed with The Joy of the Gospel.

The official Chinese translation is not out yet, so in the meantime this priest has been translating the exhortation and discussing it with his staff.

He said, “I find it very inspiring, encouraging, extraordinary, good to read and easy to understand.”

He wrote, “I think it will have a tremendous impact on the Church in re-examining its mission and re-adjusting its vision as the people of God, in its every effort for evangelisation, in realising its authentic mission in the world that was intended by its founder.”

He continues, “I will urge and ask the youth groups, Catholic students here to carefully study the pope’s exhortation when the Chinese version is published.”

I also asked him about activities he was planning for Advent and Christmas.

He and his staff will be visiting some extremely poor families in a cold mountain village to bring food and clothing. He visits them twice a year, but feels helpless in the face of the extreme poverty of these people living in despair and without hope.

He is also building a nursing home for elderly people, but has run up against a lack of funds. Please keep him in your prayers that he will be able to finish this project.

As we come to the end of this year, people all over the world have been mourning the death and celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, who died on December 5 at the age of 95.

Imprisoned for 27 years because of his campaign against unjust laws, he was released from prison in 1990. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994.

Mandela ended the terrible injustice of Apartheid. Much has been written about his character, strength, courage, compassion, enduring source of inspiration, acclaiming him as a champion of economic transformation.

He belongs among the great people of the 20 century.

Mandela was a Christian and many of his quotations echo our Catholic social teachings, not to mention the words of Jesus and now Pope Francis. Here are some of his quotes:

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived, it is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.

News from China

We just heard from Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, from Shanghai, and he praised Mandela and also cited some words from him:

Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.

Both the oppressors and the oppressed need liberation. The ones who take away others’ freedom are prisoners of hatred. They are locked behind bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.

Faith sometimes undergoes painful tests, but I will not give in to pessimism.

Bishop Ma asked people to pray for Mandela, I would ask prayers for another prisoner: Bishop Ma.

The Chinese government also praised Mandela and the vice president, Li Yuanchao, attended a funeral ceremony in South Africa along with many heads of state around the world.

We have been blessed

Soon we will once again be celebrating the birth of Jesus, a blessed gift.

This year we will be celebrating Christmas with Pope Francis, a blessed gift.

This year we celebrate the life of Mandela, a blessed gift.

The world has just called Pope Francis, A Man of Conscience.

The world has just called Nelson Mandela, A Man of Conscience.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all

From the staff of the Holy Spirit Study Centre