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Caritas aims to establish China presence

Secretary-general calls it a major gap in its network: local leader expresses doubts

Caritas aims to establish China presence

Paul Pun Chi-meng, secretary-general of Caritas Macau, speaks at the conference. reporter, Taipei

December 5, 2013

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China represents a major gap in the global operations of Caritas Internationalis, the social arm of the Catholic Church, where many could benefit from vital services, according to the group’s secretary-general.

“In the map of the Caritas network worldwide, the empty figure of China cannot simply be ignored,” said Michel Roy.

Roy said that Caritas Internationalis, whose headquarters are in Rome but which operates regional offices across Asia, would like to properly support partners in China because it cannot ignore the fact that “many Chinese people are still living in poverty” and that the Church there, “limited as it may be, has an important role to play”.

His comments came during a three-day forum on charitable organizations that began on November 30 in Taipei, and which included representatives from mainland China and officials from Caritas organizations in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as well as other countries that have projects in China.

One out of seven people among China’s estimated 1.3 billion is living in poverty, according to Roy.

“Caritas has the obligation” as a Catholic organization to help China show concern for the needy.

Anthony Lam Sui-ki, a senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong and a speaker at the forum, said China could make substantial contributions by allowing greater involvement by Caritas.

"It would be regrettable” if China remained unengaged, he said. However, he did add that the concept needed careful coordination and planning.

Fr Michael Yeung, chief executive of Caritas Hong Kong, was less optimistic about the chance for Caritas to establish itself in the mainland.

National-level Caritas groups should be established by a country’s bishops’ conference that is in communion with the Holy See, Fr Yeung said, adding that at the moment the prospects of mainland organizations was not possible.

Despite the absence of Caritas bodies there, several other Catholic charities in China continue to provide needed services, Bishop Isao Kikuchi, president of Caritas Asia, told the forum, adding that their discussions were aimed for the moment at empowering such groups.

Chinese authorities are “very sensitive… But our aim is only to express humanitarianism,” the Japanese bishop said.

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