Rome (Agenzia Fides) - We publish the full version of the speech given by Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, on the occasion of the presentation of the volume in Chinese "The Magisterium of Pope Francis". A guide to reading his Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations (教宗方济各牧职训导 – 宗座通谕及劝谕阅读指南) by Father Antonio Spadaro SJ. The volume, the result of the workshop of the magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, is a collection of reflections on the three Encyclicals and the five Apostolic Exhortations published by Pope Francis in the first 10 years of his pontificate. The presentation of the book (which can be downloaded free of charge from the website of the Chinese edition of La Civiltà Cattolica https://www.gjwm.org/2023/05/13/il-magistero-di-papa-francesco/) took place in the late afternoon of Saturday, May 13, in Rome, at the headquarters of La Civiltà Cattolica. (GV)
by Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
1) CHINESE CATHOLICS AND THE PAPAL MAGISTERIUM
I would like to thank Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ and the whole team of La Civiltà Cattolica for having followed the beautiful intuition that led them to publish this book. The beautiful intuition I am referring to lies in the fact that this book can certainly be of interest to everyone, believers and non-believers alike, as those who dedicated time and energy to publishing it say. In the introductory statement, they themselves reveal what they hope for: they hope to reach in particular "the pastors of the people of God. Priests and bishops, but also the catechists and those who have a role of guide in the communities".
Several elements suggest that this book will be received by many members of Chinese Catholic communities, both in the country and in other parts of the world, as a true gift. It will be received as a welcome gift, which comes at the right time.
One element immediately makes me imagine that the book will be received with such gratitude in China: this element is the love, affection and immediacy with which the Chinese Catholic communities follow the suggestions and pastoral indications that come to them from the Church of Rome and its Bishop. Chinese Catholics know how to treasure the Pope's teachings.
The many reports on the Church in China published by Agenzia Fides show how, for at least twenty years, Chinese Catholic parishes have been carrying out their daily journey, always following the suggestions and guidelines of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Successor of Peter. For them it is a gift and a sign of communion with the universal Church. And they often take advantage of this gift in a creative and contextualized way.
In China, there is a whole living network of prayers, liturgies, catechesis and pastoral initiatives directly inspired by the Pope's ordinary magisterium. This network is intertwined with the daily ecclesial life of the individual Chinese dioceses and Catholic communities. It is a lively and intense reality of faith, which lives and expresses a daily communion of faith with the Successor of Peter and the whole universal Church, even if it is generally ignored by the media when they speak of the Chinese Catholicism.
I could give many examples, starting with previous pontificates and ending with Pope Francis, to document how references to the papal magisterium are the daily bread of the pastoral life of Catholic parishes and dioceses in China. I will not give you all the possible examples, but I will only suggest a few, starting with the last years of the pontificate of Saint John Paul II, because I know that I will not bore you, and I believe that when talking about these things, it is always good to refer to concrete situations.
In 2004, when John Paul II proclaimed the Year of the Eucharist, in the masses of many Chinese parishes, the priests explained the reasons for the Year of the Eucharist by commenting on the Apostolic Letter of indiction, Mane nobiscum Domine.
A few months later, on the death of John Paul II, the faithful in Chinese parishes prayed for the deceased Pontiff, just as they prayed for the beginning of the pontificate of his successor, Benedict XVI.
In 2008, when Benedict XVI launched the initiative of a special Year dedicated to Saint Paul, communities and dioceses in China launched an impressive series of initiatives dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles (and it must be recognized that the Pope's suggestion was not accepted with the same enthusiasm in other parts of the world). There are courses in missionary theology, conferences on the missionary vocation which concerns all the baptized.
The same joyful attention to benefit from the ordinary magisterial suggestions of the Pope is manifested in China when Benedict XVI convenes the Year for Priests. Thus, in the diocese of Jinzhong, the Pope's Letter to priests was presented and studied at the end of June 2009, while Bishop Jean-Baptiste Wang Jin gave each priest a copy in Chinese of the writings of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney.
The same is true when Pope Benedict XVI announces the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012-November 24, 2013). The Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, with which Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the special new year, is read and deepened during study days organized in dioceses, such as that of Nanchong (Sichuan province), while in dioceses such as that of Fengxian, preparation courses are organized for catechists, "called to transmit the proclamation of the Gospel with particular dedication during the Year of Faith".
In the diocese of Liaoning, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin dedicated a pastoral letter to the Year of Faith and urged the faithful to recite, reflect and deepen the Creed.
Even with Pope Francis, Chinese Catholics manifest with simplicity their desire to walk in faith by following the help and support of the ordinary magisterium of the
Pontiff. This has been seen on many occasions, for example during the Holy Year of Mercy. Many people have passed through the Holy Doors of the cathedrals. And many bishops have published pastoral letters to revive Pope Francis' words on mercy.
I would like to add a recent example: at the beginning of May, a special year dedicated to catechism and catechists began in the diocese of Xiamen. All those who attended the mass marking the beginning of this special year received a Chinese copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
All this is a sign that even difficult and painful situations have strengthened the affection of Chinese Catholics for the Successor of Peter. It was also seen during the first months of the pandemic, when the voice and face of Pope Francis entered the homes of many Chinese Catholics every day. The liturgies and moments of prayer celebrated by the Bishop of Rome were broadcast live on television every day during this time of trial, when the cities were blocked and the people of God could not go to Mass. Groups of young Chinese Catholics, thanks to their digital skills, managed to send images of the Pope's masses to homes, as well as simultaneous translations into Chinese of his homilies.
2) POPE FRANCIS AND CHINA
The published book is a gift that will also be able to confirm and strengthen the special affection that binds Pope Francis to Chinese Catholics and to all the Chinese people. This affection has been recounted many times by the Pontiff himself, for example in Pope Francis' message to Chinese Catholics and the universal Church on September 26, 2018.
In this Message, among others, Pope Francis makes it known that Chinese Catholics are present daily "in my prayers" and on behalf of the entire Catholic Church, he expresses his gratitude and admiration "for the gift of your fidelity, of your constancy in the trial and of your deeply rooted confidence in the Providence of God, even when certain events have proved to be particularly adverse and difficult".
In this Message, Pope Francis gives thanks for the faith of Chinese Catholics, marked by the experience of martyrdom, repeating that this faith is the treasure "of the Church in China and of all the pilgrim People of God on earth".
And also for the Chinese authorities, at all levels, the Pope repeats that "the Church in China is no stranger to Chinese history and does not ask for any privileges"
3) THE MAGISTERIUM OF POPE FRANCIS AND THE PATHS TAKEN BY CHINESE CATHOLICISM
Another element makes the book of Civiltà Cattolica worthy of particular interest for Chinese Catholics, and also for many of their compatriots who are not Christians. With his ordinary magisterium, Pope Francis indicates the sources and treasures of faith, makes pastoral and spiritual suggestions and offers words of wisdom, even in the face of the problems, trials and sufferings that affect the whole human family. All of this finds great resonance in the current condition of Chinese Catholics. And many of the issues addressed by Pope Francis in his social magisterium also affect the concrete lives of their compatriots, who share with them the expectations and concerns of Chinese society.
A brief excursus on this subject can be made by referring to the individual documents.
We have already seen how the Chinese dioceses enthusiastically welcomed the initiative of Pope Benedict XVI to proclaim a Year of Faith. The Encyclical Lumen fidei is the fruit of this year, which was also marked by the resignation of Pope Ratzinger. This document is dear to Chinese Catholics, especially because its preparation brought together the people of two Popes, Benedict and Francis. As you may remember, Pope Benedict had already almost completed a first version of the encyclical on faith. Pope Francis took over and completed this work, "in the brotherhood of Christ". Also because of his particular journey, this document recalls in a special way that the task of the Successor of Peter, of each Successor of Peter, of all the Successors of Peter, is to confirm the brothers in the faith.
Evangelii Gaudium is Pope Francis' programmatic Apostolic Exhortation, and it is full of passages that seem to have been written specifically to illuminate and comfort the path of Chinese Catholics in recent decades, even in the most difficult and painful passages. Just think of the famous four principles of social life re-proposed in the Exhortation (Time is superior to space; Unity prevails over conflict; Reality is more important than the idea; The whole is superior to the part). I will add only a short passage from paragraph 44: "A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than the outwardly correct life of one who spends his days without facing great difficulties". In this paragraph, Pope Francis speaks of the mercy that should guide the work of priests when administering the sacrament of confession. But these are words that can also suggest how we should all look at the path of our Chinese brothers and sisters.
The Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia on love in the family can be read and received with particolar interest in China, where even certain virtuous practices (virtues) rooted in Chinese tradition, such as filial love for parents (Filial Piety) and respect for the elderly, are today undermined by the upheavals linked to development models totally conditioned by the race for money and economic interests. Even the abandonment of the one-child policy is, in a way, a warning sign in China regarding certain social imbalances related to the problems of family life and related policies.
Gaudete et Exsultate, the Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in the contemporary world, has resonated deeply in the lives of many Chinese Catholics. In China, over the past decades, the treasure of the Catholic faith has been guarded and passed on from person to person and from generation to generation. This happened above all thanks to many silent witnesses and confessors of the faith. People who have witnessed and still witness to their faith, not with great proclamations or great events, but with simplicity, with the power of the sacraments, in the midst of the problems of daily life, beginning precisely with family life.
Laudato Sì and Querida Amazonia address environmental issues and dangers, an issue that is also an emergency in China. China's great economic development in recent decades has also led to growing environmental problems in many fields, and people are now increasingly aware of ecological problems and dangers to everyone's health. These are the dangers of pollution, contamination and the adulteration of food.
The Encyclical Fratelli Tutti calls for recognizing that all men and women are brothers and sisters because they are sons and daughters of the same Father. This Encyclical, also inspired by Saint Francis, affirms this reality in our world, a world wounded by what the Pope no longer calls a "piecemeal war", because it is clearly a global war.
This Encyclical came after years of Cultural Wars and weapon wars, after so many massacres perpetrated in the name of religious ideologies and words. The Encyclical Fratelli Tutti also arrived after the pandemic. And even the pandemic has shown once again and forever that no one can save themselves, as Pope Francis writes.
The Encyclical Fratelli Tutti affirms that the very fact of recognizing brotherhood among all human beings is not naive idealism. To recognize each other as brothers represents the only realistic alternative to confrontation, to the culture of rejection, to xenophobia, to projects of domination of minds through social networks. It is only by recognizing ourselves as brothers that there is the only realistic possibility of preventing entire peoples from being overwhelmed and exterminated by the programs put in place to "accelerate the Apocalypse".
The Encyclical Fratelli Tutti also evokes the possibility of developing relations between nations and peoples that are not based solely on confrontations and trials of strength to impose one's domination. It can certainly get a lot of attention and interest in China as well. We all know it: for some time now, many geopolitical analysts have been repeating that a war is being prepared between the West and China. And we also know what the fate of the world will be if the analysts are not wrong.
4) IN THE WAKE OF MATTEO RICCI
The conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate recalled that the Church, precisely "In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship" (NA 1). In this document of the Council, it was also recalled that "we cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God" (NA 5).
Universal fraternity, recognized as the starting point in Nostra Aetate and also referred to in the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, was also the horizon of the human and Christian journey of the great Jesuit missionary, Venerable Matteo Ricci, who died and was buried in Beijing on May 11, 413 years ago, in 1610 (two days ago was the anniversary of his death).
In Matteo Ricci, it was precisely gratitude for the gift of faith that led him to meet the men and women of China and recognize them as brothers. The volume that we present also follows the path of familiarity and sympathy with the Chinese people that Matteo Ricci opened. And it should be remembered that Pope Francis, at the inauguration of the new Chinese edition of La Civiltà Cattolica, gave Matteo Ricci himself as a reference model for cultural work, he who had left Italy, from Macerata, to go and love China without pretensions, and without plans for conquest, and by becoming Chinese himself.
This is the path on which Chinese Catholics can also walk in the present and the future. They are called to joyfully bear witness to the love of Jesus for all their people, to the love of Jesus for all.
While carrying out his mission of bearing witness to Christ in what he called "this other world that is China", Matteo Ricci also taught his new Chinese brothers how to use astrolabes, or built globes for them. Even today, Catholics in China, as in the whole world, are called to show that the companions of Jesus seek only to bring good things and share them with everyone. Things that are good for peace and the joy of living. (Agenzia Fides, 13/5/2023)