By UCA News
By Jeroom Heyndrickx
A group of parish priests from China met with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on April 27.
Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, a Sinologist, introduced the 23 priests to Pope Francis who was glad to learn they had just completed an exchange course on pastoral issues at the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, an institute which is part of the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium.
The priests — most of who are from China’s north — visited Rome as part of the Holy Year pilgrimage that is currently underway.
Speaking in Spanish, the priests asked the pope to “Please come to visit China.”
The pope answered, “Yes, yes, I would like to come.”
After meeting the pope, the group met Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and his secretary Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai who spoke to them of evangelization work in China.
Cardinal Filoni spent 10 years serving the church in China from Hong Kong.
The Chinese priests’ pilgrimage began two days earlier when they walked along the Via della Conciliazione in Rome singing hymns and praying the rosary.
All were aware that 40 years ago such a pilgrimage was forbidden and unthinkable for Chinese Catholics.
They also entered through the Holy Door and went to pray at the tomb of St. Peter.
The next morning they celebrated Mass in the crypt of St. Peter and prayed for church unity and that they may obtain the freedom to be good Catholics and also Chinese loving their own country.
The priests also visited Assisi April 28 and a Mass at the catacombs the following day completed their pilgrimage.
They return to China on April 30.