The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said this week Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics “is motivated by two great loves: his love for China and his love for the Catholic Church.”
The letter “has a very positive perspective and is full of hope for the growth of a Church that will be fully Chinese and fully Catholic,” Father Lombardi stated, explaining that the Pontiff hopes that the Church in that country will become “vitally and constructively” involved in Chinese life and culture. “The Church wants to and can be truly Chinese,” he said.
Father Lombardi stressed that the letter is “full of affection and gratitude for the faithful witness of so many Chinese Catholics and at the same time it is full of the theology of the Church” and that it is principally a “religious and pastoral tool aimed at the members of the Catholic Church in China, which does not want to get involved in political or diplomatic problems.”
“The Pope is not seeking confrontation with anyone. He is not launching accusations, inside or outside the Church, he always maintains a serene tone full of respect, even when he refers to the limitations of freedom, to unacceptable positions, to internal tensions in the Church.”
“The exhortation to unity, reconciliation, and reciprocal forgiveness is one of the most intense messages sustained throughout the letter,” Father Lombardi added.
He also noted that nature of ecclesial communion and of the role of bishops has led the Pope to address the issue of the naming of bishops and the actions of state agencies that are irreconcilable with a Catholic vision.
“If Chinese officials tend to be worried about external interference in the life of the country, the Church for her part is concerned about undue interference from the State in her internal life,” Father Lombardi said. “Thus the Pope insists on explaining the correct distinction between the political sphere and the religious sphere, between the responsibilities of civil officials and those of the Church, and he firmly declares the willingness of the Church to dialogue in order to overcome misunderstandings and disputed points, as well as in the area of the naming of bishops,” the Vatican spokesman said.
“The Church will be and can be fully Chinese the more she is truly herself. This is the essence of the great, faithful and marvelous message of the Pope,” he said.