Rome (Fides Service) – The Chinese Catholic community in Rome has a new Centre next to the Church of San Bernardino da Siena, Via Panisperna 256. The community will gather for the official opening of the Agostino Chao Centre and Library on Sunday 28 September. Father John Chiu tells Fides Service: “This will be an event of great joy for all the Chinese people in Rome, Catholics and non as well as all our friends”. Fr Chiu a Friar Minor Conventual, is chaplain of the Catholic Chinese community in Rome and also confessor in St Peter’s for Chinese speaking faithful.
“We are very happy – Fr Chiu says – that the Vicariate of the diocese of Rome has given us the use of the Church of San Bernardino da Siena. For the last few years we gathered in San Lorenzo church in the same road which belongs to the Italian government and is actually the official church of Italian Police Chaplaincy.
Pastoral work will benefit from the new Centre. “The Chinese chaplaincy is at the service of about 250 Catholics out of a total Chinese population in Rome of roughly 6,000, legal immigrants, although there are an estimated 25,000 Chinese workers in restaurants and shops all over the capital. Many have families and they are waiting for their residence permit and the uncertainty makes it difficult to find work and a job” says Father Chiu.
The Agostino Chao Centre helps immigrants to settle into society. It offers Italian language courses, social services, interpreter services and help with overcome bureaucratic red tape, medical assistance through Rome diocese Caritas office, information about lodging and meals etc. Founded in 1968 and inaugurated by Cardinal Gregory Agaggianian at the time Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples – Fr Chiu tells Fides – the Agostino Chao Centre takes its name of from the first of China’s 120 martyrs canonised by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000. The Centre also offers Chinese language courses for children.
With regard to evangelisation among Chinese people in Rome Fr Chiu says “our pastoral is passing the word. Many come to the faith through friends or family, or also parish priests in Rome who send us immigrants interested in knowing more about the Catholic faith”.
“Now that I have two new assistants to help at the Centre – says Fr Chiu – I hope to organise new pastoral initiatives to meet the growing needs of the Chinese Catholic community in Rome. I have been chaplain for four years and during this time we have welcomed many new faces and I can say that the future for the apostolate and evangelisation is promising”. PA (Fides Service 26/9/2003 EM lines 35 Words: 469)