-- Catholic News Agency
With New Year Coming, Archbishop Sees Vitality In Chinese Church
ROME, ITALY, February 9 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai is preparing to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Rome, and as he takes stock of the Church in his native land he sees many reasons for hope.
"The Catholic communities in China also give me hope," Archbishop Hon Tai Fai told CNA in a Feb. 7 interview as he looked ahead to the New Year.
"I noticed that some communities have a good sense of solidarity. Helping other people and working to do good and keep the harmony of the society and family.
"I can see the number of Catholics is growing. People are accepting the teachings of Christ and his Gospel and are willing to live it.
"So the vitality of the Church there gives me hope as well. And of course, personally, I believe in God who is the Lord of history and He will guide us," the archbishop stated.
He is also hopeful because he believes that the Chinese government is trying to work for the good of the people and take their rights into consideration.
"But the government has a huge problem of how to satisfy the matter, as I called it, the problem of corruption," the archbishop explained, adding that corruption can lead to rights being ignored.
"For me," he said, "religious freedom is the most fundamental side of human rights because if one cannot have the choice for his or her own belief in that particular country then it would be very difficult for him or her to live. "
While he believes that religious freedom has improved significantly for common people over the last 50 years, Archbishop Hon Tai Fai says "freedom is tightened and restricted for Church leaders."
"Unfortunately, this includes the selection of these leaders and their appointments. For the Catholic Church what we need is to be in communion with the Holy Father and regrettably full communion with the Holy Father is restricted," he stated.
But in spite of the restrictions the Church is growing in China. Archbishop Hon Tai Fai thinks that there are around 12 million Catholics in the country but that the number is hard to pin down because many people don't want to be registered.
On Feb. 10, Chinese people around the globe will celebrate the beginning of their New Year. The enormous number of people who flood out of cities to visit and feast with their families has caused some people to call the holiday travel the largest mass migration in the world.
"The Chinese New Year is a big tradition of feasts. We sometimes call it the feast of spring, though it is more winter," Archbishop Hon Tai Fai explained.
People "stay together to feast with their family for peace and harmony. It is time also to give thanks and remember our ancestors."
Although he is in Rome, the archbishop will celebrate the Chinese New Year by inviting "all the Chinese students, brothers, sisters and priests to come here to the college."
The feast, which is in its third year, brings just under 200 people for Mass and dinner at the college, followed by watching TV programs from China at a movie theater.
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