Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year! from Claretians in Macau and China.

At the beginning of the year
we make ours the Psalmist prayer:

"Teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts
unto wisdom"

(Psalm 90:12)

Vatican Reports Ordination of Two More Chinese Bishops with Papal Approval

Vatican media have reported news of the recent ordinations of two more bishops in mainland China, which they confirmed took place with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.

In their reports the Vatican media said Father Francis Lu Shouwang was ordained bishop of Yichang , in the province of Hubei, on 30 November, the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, while Father Joseph Gan Junqiu was ordained archbishop of Guangzhou (Canton), in the province of Guangdong on December 4.

The place: Yichang:

Mgr Lu Shouwang, is the bishop where the Three Gorges Dam is located.The life of the Church in Yichang has been disrupted by the pharaonic hydro-electric project, which has drawn many Catholic migrants from the countryside in addition to foreign and Chinese tourists. The new bishop has set up tens of “prayer points,” largely run by lay people, to respond to pastoral needs of his faithful. His mission and that of the Church in his diocese have been marked by the presence of this huge project.Yichang is located along the Yang Tze River, in Hubei province, an area called “China’s greatest concentration of hydroelectric resources.”

The Three Gorges Dam rises some 40 kilometers upriver—hence the bishop’s decision to add the dam to his Episcopal crest.

The construction of the dam, which is the biggest in the world, began in 1994 and should end in 2010.

The dam itself is 185 meters (607 ft) high and about 2,300 meters (7,661 ft) long.
Up to now some five million residents have been relocated to create the dam basin and avoid landslide and floods.

Since the project started millions of people have also moved from the countryside to the cities seeking employment.

Most of the 30,000 Catholics who live in the diocese are farmers, but the young and many adults are moving to Yichang to study. “The pastoral work for all this migrant population is an important challenge,” said the bishop.

In addition to parish churches, the diocese has set up “prayer points” to gather the faithful. Altogether the diocese has 21 priests, six seminarians and 12 nuns, but the laity plays an important role in pastoral activities in the “prayer points.”

In addition to Hubei’s migrant population thousands of Chinese and foreign tourists come to the city to visit the dam.

Guangzhou (Canton):

New Archbishop of Guangzhou: “Also in China the Church is One and Catholic.” Before imparting his final blessing on the faithful, Msgr. Gan recalled that the Church is “one, holy Catholic and Apostolic.”

The Catholic Church, even in China is “one holy Catholic and apostolic”. It was underlined by the new archbishop of Guangzhou, Msgr. Joseph Gan Junqiu, and minutes before he gave his parting blessing to the faithful who had gathered in Sacred Heart Cathedral to participate in his ordination.

The solemn mass took place in the “House of Stone”, the great cathedral that lies in the centre of the city. Press and faithful from other diocese were not allowed attend due to “lack of space”. About 900 people participated, each given an admission pass with the number of the pew assigned to them as well as their position within the same pew.

Msgr. Gan took advantage of the moment in which the congregation exchanged the sign of peace to come down from the altar, leave the cathedral and make his way to a room close by the Church, where other Catholics were following the mass via a giant screen. There he embraced the only foreigners who were present in a sign of communion with the Universal Church.

Vatican Newspaper Echoes our Chinese Book

L’Osservatore Romano
(December 13, 2007)

mentions that Claretian Publications Macau (China)
has taken the initiative to promote the Word of God
through the publication in Chinese
of the well known book “Daily Gospel”
– a project published in several languages
by a collaboration of Claretian publishers from around the world.

A powerful instrument of evangelization
that now becomes available in Chinese
for distribution inside and outside China.

Huangshan – Tunxi: A Former Claretian Enclave in China

Some 80 years ago Claretian missionaries arrived in Tunxi, Anhui Province in China and their residence was a few meters away from the famous Tunxi Street. They were forced to leave in 1949, but they left behind a vibrant Christian community. But let me tell you first about the surrounding place, half hour away by car:

The Yellow Mountains or Huangshan Mountains

The famous scrolls of Chinese black and white paintings of high mountains, rocks, trees and sea of clouds come alive in Huangshan Mountains in the south Anhui province. It is a marvelous mountain area, now on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. There is an old saying well known throughout the country "No need to see any other mountains after Huangshan!"

Huangshan has spectacular landscape with its four unique scenes: interesting shaped rocks, waterfalls, unique shaped pine trees growing out of rocks, and its sea of clouds. Huangshan has all, the steepness, the grace, the elegance, and so on. Huang Shan Mountain area is such a marvelous place with spectacular vista and its ever-changing scenes attract tourists in all seasons and inspire countless Chinese painters and poets for thousands of years.

The Huangshan mountain range comprises many peaks, 77 of which exceed 1,000 meters in altitude. The World Heritage Site covers a core area of 154 square kilometers and a buffer zone of 142 square kilometers.

The mountains were formed in the Mesozoic, about 100 million years ago, when an ancient sea disappeared due to uplift. Later, in the Quaternary, the landscape was shaped by the influence of glaciers. In many cases, stone pillar forests were formed.

And now back to the city of Huangshan:
Tunxi Ancient Street in Huangshan City (China)

At the foot of the Mt. Huangshan, in the bend of Xin'an River, lies the beautiful mountain town called "Tunxi ". The "Tunxi Ancient Street" can be found in this old city.

The street is about 1.5km and the sides of the street are laid with slab stones.

There are hundreds of old but well preserved rows of shops, evoking a bygone era in buildings that are simple and elegant. It is a commercial street that is only for pedestrians.

An ancient Western-European architect once visited the old street and said that he had found "The Eastern Ancient Rome."

First built over 700 years ago, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the street is flanked by some buildings from this period.

Most of the buildings are only three stories high, stone-based and brick-laid. They are decorated with small green tiles, wood carvings in the Hui style, ancient shop signs, and red-lacquered with double eaves on the roofs. They are simple and elegant, magnificent and clean.

The street with centuries-old history dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Emperor Huizong (1082-1135) moved his seat of government to Lin'an (now is Hangzhou), when many architects and workmen were conscripted to construct the new capital. After returning to their hometown, they imitated the structural style to build architecture along the street, so Tunxi Ancient Street was formed.

The place where the Claretians had their residency, very near the old Tuenxi street, is now occupied by a luxurious hotel.

The People who Stole our Hearts

Fr. Mario Bonfaini, a Claretian working in Taiwan, has been accompanying the Huangshan Christian community for the last 10 years. This time he invited our Macau community, Peter, Jojo and Alberto, to join him in celebrating Christmas with the community of Huangzhan. We gladly accepted but never imagined that those simple people could give us so much…

Two hours by plane from Macau/Zhuhai to Shanghai and the same day 12 hours by train and we were in this former Claretian territory in the heart of China.

Many years of suffering and even prison for some of them did not quench their faith. Now a new generation of Christians continues to give witness by the testimony of their lives.

Take Nicolas, for example: A doctor formed in the school of our famous Claretian doctor Bro. José Torres, he spent 30 years in prison together with many of his companions. Now at 79 years of age, he continues his work in the church with contagious joy and good humor. He greeted us in perfect Spanish… and he knows English too.

He showed us a handwritten book asking us to write a message in it. It was the Gospel of John, written in Spanish! He told us that he reads it often… Just to think that today is so easy to own a Bible, even in China… these old people had to write their own!

The parish is very poor. Dr. Nicolas asked for a black board to be placed in one of the walls and there he writes his messages.

A Christmas message written by Dr. Nicolas.

The Christian community came in full to welcome us as you can appreciate in the above picture.

And we celebrated the Christmas Mass. What devotion and enthusiasm these people showed! The celebration included two adult baptisms. Their Christian names: Ines and Maria. Maria, the mother of a 7 year old son, showered us with her presence, gifts and tears when we left, as did many of them….

The few old people who had known our former missionaries gathered to tell their stories. There are few of them left, they are old and weak, but they were so happy to share with us their memories, their lives and experiences…

Fr. Peter Chao listens to the stories of these old people who were first introduced to our Christian faith by the missionaries more than 60 years ago.

Poor… very poor materially – but so full of joy! This is the case of this peasant who invited us to go and bless his house. Fr. Peter Chao and the Parish priest, Fr. Thomas Liu are blessing the house. This exemplary young priest accompanied us all the time. He has to take care of 13 parish stations scattered in a big region.

In Huangshan we have also established one of our Parish Libraries and Sr. Lucia, who is the one who takes care of the church in Huangshan, is in charge.

One day of our visit we went to a neighbor town, Shexian, about 30 kilometers from Huangshan and also a place attended by our Claretian missionaries in years past.

Another Claretian Enclave: SHEXIAN

Once again, a word about the place:

Surrounded by green mountains and crystal water, the ancient city in Shexian County is rich in cultural relics, residences, a memorial temple, and memorial arches. The county is an art museum of classical architecture.

Shexian County, situated at the foot of Mt. Huangshan, is reputed as 'the Town of Arches'. More than 250 arches constructed in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties are scattered around the county.

Archway is known as 'Paifang' or 'Pailou' in Chinese. Paifang was a unique architectural form in ancient China.

Paifang is a unique architectural form and a reflection of traditional Chinese culture. Shexian was blessed with many archways, hence 'the Town of Arches’.

In the heart of this ancient city there is the remnant of another church serviced by Claretians in 1940’s. Now is in ruins. Several families are living inside the former church. How we wish we could restore it! For that we believe that only the Chinese Historical Conservation Society could convince the local government to have the political will to do it.

Greetings from Macau community

In preparation for Christmas the Macau community organized the “Aguinaldo” Masses. For 9 days we celebrated the Eucharist at 5:30 a.m. with the company of almost 30 Filipinos. Here is a remembrance of the event.

Help at the Beijing Seminary

Ian Dacayanan, our companion in the office, was invited to go to Beijing and help prepare a web page for the National Seminary. He spent the whole month teaching some seminarians the basic of web design.

Meeting with the Director of the Administrative Commission of Catholic Church in China and Contacts in Shanghai

Alberto was invited by the Spanish speaking community of Shanghai to attend to their pastoral needs at the beginning of December. It is a very vibrant community longing for a Spanish speaking priest to take care of their spiritual needs. These are professional and business people sent by their countries or companies and are there with their families.

Since there were important things to share and discuss in Beijing, Alberto went also there to talk with Mr. Liu Bain Nian, a person who has helped us during the past 10 years, especially for the distribution of the Pastoral Bible in China. This time we asked permission to bring English and Chinese books from abroad for the 12 Major Seminaries in China. Mr. Liu will facilitate the entry of these books that, as we reported previously, are donated by several publishing houses in USA (for the English titles). We also talked about a new revised edition of our Chinese Bible and several other projects related to our pastoral ministry.

TRIVIA 1: Talented beyond their limits

You will be inspired and encouraged by this Chinese couple:
She without arm, he without leg - ballet - Hand in Hand


TRIVIA 2: The smallest Old Testament -- Bible smaller than a pinhead

Scientists were able to pack the 308,428 words onto a surface smaller than a pinhead

Israeli scientists yesterday said they had created the world's smallest Hebrew Bible, fitting the book on to a gold-coated silicon chip smaller than a pinhead.

The scientists were able to pack the 308,428 words onto a surface smaller than a pinhead
Scientists at Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology, were able to pack the 308,428 words of what Christians refer to as the Old Testament on to a 0.5mm square of silicon by etching its surface with particle beams.

"The Guinness Book of World Records has a Bible 50 times bigger," said Ohad Zohar, who directed the project. He said he now wanted to take pictures of the nano-Bible and blow it up to a seven-by-seven metre poster, which will make it "possible to read the entire bible with the naked eye".

The tiny Bible was developed as part of an educational drive to increase interest in nanoscience among teenagers.


One million Bibles a month will come off finishing line

On a recent visit to Nanjing, China, the director and good friend Mr. Li Chunnong took Jojo and I to see the new place under construction.

The 86,671 square meter site is part of a new industrial development in Nanjing, a city of over 6 million people. A new giant press, worth over US$4 million was delivered last September and started working on December 8. Formal inauguration will be on May 18 – and we are invited, of course.“Who would have thought that 20 years ago when the press first opened that we would be so successful that we would need to move to a new location. Over that 20 year period, the press has printed 50 million Bibles and New Testaments with 40 million Chinese language Bibles distributed in China,” said Mr. Daniel, one representative from the Bible Societies.“The new press will have a capacity of 1 million Bibles a month and with the growth of the Church in China, this capacity will well and truly be needed,” he said. “I also visited churches in China’s north-east where I was told there was an increasing interest in the Bible – the new Amity Press will ensure this interest can be met with Bibles and New Testaments,” Daniel said.“Whilst some organizations claim that Bibles are not legally available in China, or if they are, they don’t contain the whole Bible – nothing could be further from the truth. God’s people have been faithful to the vision of Amity and we are seeing unprecedented opportunity for whole Bible distribution throughout China,” Daniel said. “There are 55,000 Bible distribution points spread throughout the country,” he said.