Catholic clergy of mainland China were encouraged in their work towards communion with Rome and greater unity in their communities this month. In a letter from the head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, they were urged to "continue without fear on the path of holiness, unity and communion."
The congregation's prefect, Cardinal Ivan Dias, sent the letter to Chinese Catholic bishops and priests on July 5. The secretary of the department, Archbishop Robert Sarah, also signed the message, which was published by the congregation's news agency Fides on Thursday.
The cardinal prefect encouraged Chinese clergy in their duties "as shepherds of the flock," reminding them of Jesus' call for priests to be "not servants, but friends."
As an "alter Christus" on Earth, he explained, each has the task of being a "Man of God," distinguishing himself "as a man of prayer and an austere style of life, profoundly in love with Christ and … proud to proclaim His presence amongst us, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist."
In his duty as a "Man for others," he wrote, the priest must also be "entirely dedicated to the faithful ... entrusted to his pastoral care and to all those with whom the Lord Jesus chose to identify himself or those towards whom He showed special kindness … "
Working as an "operator of unity within the Church," the priest or bishop needs to be in communion with the Pope and united to the members of the Church, continued the cardinal.
Reminded of the suffering of some within the Church for being loyal to Rome, Cardinal Dias noted that Chinese Catholics' "exemplary and courageous loyalty towards the See of Peter ... is a precious gift of the Lord."
Encouraging the promotion of unity within the Christian community to strengthen the Church in the country, he called for them to "enter, in spirit, the Upper Room" where Jesus asked the disciples to join together to show a credible witness to the world.
"The unity of the Church is rooted in her union with Christ and the cause of full Christian unity that must ever be sought and renewed, from generation to generation it is also sustained by his prayer and his promise," he wrote, quoting Benedict XVI's homily from this year's Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Cardinal Dias closed the letter by praising God for the efforts of the Chinese Church towards unity, and communicating the Pope's blessing and wishes that they "continue without fear on the path of holiness, unity and communion."