Pope Francis' video message broadcast at the Pontifical Urban University Pope Francis' video message broadcast at the Pontifical Urban University 

Pope: ‘Chinese Catholics bear witness to faith in charity and mercy’

Pope Francis recalls the 100th anniversary of the Concilium Sinense in Shanghai, and encourages Chinese Catholics to testify to their faith through works of mercy and charity, while promoting the harmony of social coexistence.

By Devin Watkins

The Pontifical Urban University in Rome hosted a conference on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Concilium Sinense, the first and only Council of the Chinese Catholic Church, which was held in Shanghai in May and June 1924.

Pope Francis sent a video message to participants attending the event, calling the anniversary “a precious occasion for many reasons.”

He noted that the Sinense Council marked an important step forward for the Catholic Church in China.

“The Holy Spirit,” he said, “brought them together, allowed harmony to grow among them, led them along paths that many of them would not have imagined, even overcoming perplexities and resistance.”

At the time, Council attendees hailed from distant countries and many resisted the idea of allowing Chinese-born priests and bishops to lead dioceses.

During the Sinense Council, however, they agreed that the Church in China should have “a Chinese face,” since “Christ's proclamation of salvation can only reach every human community and every single person if it speaks in their ‘mother tongue’.”

Christ safeguards faith of Chinese Catholics

Pope Francis recalled the important contribution of Archbishop Celso Costantini, the First Apostolic Delegate to China, whom Pope Pius XI entrusted with the task of organizing the Council.

Archbishop Costantini’s efforts allowed the communion between the Holy See and the Church in China to manifest “fruits of good for all the Chinese people.”

The Council of Shanghai, said the Pope, “was not a question of ‘changing strategy’, but of following paths that best conformed to the nature of the Church and her mission.”

Participants trusted in the grace of Christ, he added, and their gaze toward the future has become the modern Church’s present.

“The Lord in China has safeguarded the faith of the people of God along the way,” said the Pope. “And the faith of God's people has been the compass that has shown the way throughout this time, before and after the Council of Shanghai, until today.”

Jesus’ followers love peace

Recalling the fruits of the Concilium Sinense, Pope Francis said Chinese Catholics, “in communion with the Bishop of Rome, walk in the present time.”

He invited them to bear witness to their faith through works of mercy and charity, thereby contributing to “the harmony of social coexistence, to the building of the common home.”

“Those who follow Jesus love peace,” said the Pope, “and find themselves together with all those who work for peace, in a time in which we see inhuman forces at work that seem to want to accelerate the end of the world.”

Motherly care of Our Lady of Sheshan

In conclusion, the Pope praised Chinese Catholics’ devotion to Our Lady of Sheshan, whose Shrine sits near Shanghai and whose feast day is celebrated on May 24.

He entrusted the Church in China to her intercession, and prayed that “peace may win everywhere.”

“Remembering the Council of Shanghai,” he concluded, “can also suggest today new paths to the entire Church and open paths to be undertaken with boldness to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel in the present.”

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21 May 2024, 10:02