On Saturday at noon, the Holy Father released his letter to all Catholics in China. His intention in writing to them was to express his deep affection for them and “to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master Jesus Christ wants from you."
The Pope began his letter by mentioning the history of Chinese Catholicism over the last 50 years. “The Catholic community in China has lived the past fifty years in an intense way, undertaking a difficult and painful journey, which not only has deeply marked it but has also caused it to take on particular characteristics which continue to mark it today.”
The different forms of oppression that the government used to try and control the Church were also detailed by the pontiff. The appointment and consecration of bishops without the approval of the Holy Father, the requirement that churches be registered with the Patriotic Association, and the killing of Catholics who refused to cooperate with the government were all mentioned in the letter.
While expressing great joy for the fidelity demonstrated by the faithful in China over the past fifty years, Benedict XVI reaffirmed the inestimable value of their sufferings and of the persecution endured for the Gospel and directed to all an earnest appeal for unity and reconciliation.
The pontiff said that full reconciliation "cannot be accomplished overnight", and that the path "of reconciliation is supported by the example and the prayer of so many ‘witnesses of faith’ who have suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China.”
The Pope called the Church to a deeper fidelity to Jesus Christ and he reminded all Chinese Catholics of their mission to be evangelizers in the present specific context of their country.
Benedict closed his letter by reiterating his respect and deep sympathy for the ancient and recent history of “the great Chinese people” and once again declared himself ready to engage in dialogue with the Chinese authorities.
Benedict XVI asserted that normalization of the life of the Church in China presupposes frank, open and constructive dialogue with these authorities. Like his Predecessor John Paul II before him, Benedict said that he is firmly convinced that this normalization will make an “incomparable contribution to peace in the world, thus adding an irreplaceable piece to the great mosaic of peaceful coexistence among peoples.”