Beijing (Fides Service) – “There is a strong desire among Chinese Catholics, young people in particular, to deepen their knowledge faith. Not content with the elements of faith handed on orally by parents or grandparents, they want to now more and so we thought of this Fundamental Theology Guidance Programme”. Father Peter Zhao of the Institute for Christianity and Culture Study of Beijing said this to Fides Service when he explained the reason for a new course about to start at his Institute.
Father Peter, who has a degree in Canon Law from the Catholic University in Louvain in Belgium, is in charge of the seven month course which will commence on 3 October. “As Director of the Institute for Christianity and Culture Study I have been able to see over the years, that there is a deep lying need in our communities. There is a need for in-depth and ongoing formation, for priests of course, but also for the laity. Aware of this need we decided to organise this course which will offer lay Catholics in China an opportunity to study fundamental Christian theology.”
The Fundamental Theology Guidance Programme focuses on various subjects including: fundamental theology; moral theology; history of Catholic liturgy; Bible study; theological thoughts of the Second Vatican Council and Catholic Social Teaching. The teachers are clergy and laity with university degrees at pontifical colleges in Europe or the United States.
Father Zhao gives the requirements for students wishing to apply: “All applicants must be university sophomores with an interest in academic research on Christianity. They must also be competent in foreign languages. The course requires 85 percent attendance at the 112 lessons as well as a thesis of at least than 3,000 Chines characters at the end of the course. Students fulfilling all course requirements will receive a certificate.”
Father Zhao further explained, “We call it a ‘guidance programme’ because it depends very much on self-learning by students. We offer only guidance: each subject takes about 20 hours so such a short course can hardly be compared to a formal theology programme”.
“It is important to raise the level of theological formation of lay Catholics – Father Zhao concludes – This will enable them to have an exchange of ideas with other academics, very often excellent researchers but lacking in faith. We hope in this way to transmit and spread a faith which is profound and is profoundly lived ”. NZ (Fides Service 19/9/2003 EM lines 46 Words: 509)