Leuven (Agenzia Fides) - In Europe (Belgium, Holland and France) to reactivate the path of fraternal cooperation between the Churches after the difficult parenthesis marked by the pandemic. This is the reason for the one-week trip to three European countries of four Successors of the Apostles of the People's Republic of China: Joseph Guo Jincai, Bishop of the diocese of Chengde and new rector of the National Seminary of Beijing; Paul Pei Junmin, Bishop of the diocese of Shenyang; Joseph Liu Xinhong, Bishop of Anhui province and Joseph Cui Qingqi, Bishop of Wuhan.
At the invitation of the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation of Leuven in Belgium, a foundation sponsored by the Chinese Province of the Missionaries of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary CICM (Scheut), the Chinese delegation arrived in Leuven on September 7, welcomed by Father Jeroom Heyndrickx (CICM), missionary and great friend of the Catholic Church in China, as well as with other members of the foundation and the Catholic University of Leuven involved in Chinese studies. The four bishops immediately went on pilgrimage to the church of St. Damian where they concelebrated the Eucharist. During their stay, they organized a training course in Chinese for priests, religious and Catholic laity from China. The Bishops also participated in meetings at the Verbiest Foundation and the Chinese College to explore new ways to reactivate exchanges and training courses in collaboration with Chinese dioceses. Furthermore, the Chinese Bishops were received by Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, President of the Belgian Episcopal Conference and Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, to whom they presented the collaboration proposals agreed with the Verbiest Foundation. The meeting concluded with a Eucharistic concelebration in the Archdiocesan chapel, in the presence of the newly ordained Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Luc Terlinden.
The four Bishops experienced a moment of prayerful reflection in front of the Chinese coffin of Father Theophile Verbiest, founder of the Congregation. Warmly welcomed by Father Luc Colla, vice-provincial of the Scheut missionaries, the Bishops concelebrated the mass presided over by Paul Pei, bishop of Shenyang where the Scheut missionaries worked.
After visiting the Parc Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers in Heverlee, one of the oldest abbeys in Belgium, and Tournai, one of the oldest dioceses in Belgium, the Chinese bishops made a short stopover to the Netherlands, at the motherhouse of the SVD Verbites missionaries in Steyl. In Broekhuizenvorst, they commemorated the nine martyrs: Vincentian bishop Schraven and his companions. They also met Jan Hendriks, bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, and discused with him the 15th International Verbiest Conference to be held in 2024, to which Chinese Catholic scholars will also be invited.
From September 12 to 15, the Chinese bishops continued their visit to France by meeting the missionaries of the Society for Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP). The Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation (VF) was created in 1982 by the Chinese Province of the Missionaries of the CICM (Scheut). Academic research, cultural exchanges, dialogue and cooperation between Churches are the four pillars of its mission aimed at promoting dialogue and cultural exchange with China and the Catholic Church in China. The Foundation is engaged in joint academic research with institutes in China and Belgium. It collaborates with the Church in China in a spirit of Christian fraternity and communion between particular Churches. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Church in China, the foundation provides training for Church ministers through seminary teaching, scholarship, and pastoral and social commitment. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 18/9/2023)