Speaking from the town of Oies, the birthplace of a canonized Italian missionary to China, Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday said China is growing in international importance but must also “open up” to Christ.
“We know that China is becoming increasingly more important politically and economically, and also in the life of ideas,” the Pope said at a church in the small town, ANSA reports. ''It's important that this great continent opens up to the Gospel of Christ.”
He said St. Joseph Freinademetz—an Italian missionary to China whose grave he was visiting--showed that “faith does not alienate any culture or people, because all cultures are waiting for Christ and will not be destroyed. In the Lord, they reach their maturity.”
The saint lived and died as a Chinese man, but in heaven too he remains Chinese, the Pope declared, saying the missionary “identified with these people and with the certainty that they will open up to the faith of Christ.”
St. Joseph Freinademetz was ordained a priest for Bressanone at the age of 22 but decided to become a missionary, arriving in Hong Kong in 1879. Despite the threat of persecution, he remained in China until his death from typhus in 1908.
On Sunday after reciting the Angelus in Bressanone, Pope Benedict sent his best wishes to China as it prepares to open the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Pope Benedict XVI has been attempting to open greater dialogue with China, an officially atheist state, in hopes of eventually restoring the full diplomatic ties severed in 1951 soon after the Communist Revolution.