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Cycling pilgrim completes his tour of China

Cyclist's pilgrimage highlighted by chance encounter

Albert Chen (left) met Bishop Paul Xie Tingzhe (center) of Urumqi during his cycling pilgrimage Albert Chen (left) met Bishop Paul Xie Tingzhe (center) of Urumqi during his cycling pilgrimage
  • Francis Kuo, Taipei
  • Taiwan
  • June 4, 2012
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Cyclist Albert Chen has finished the first phase of his solo pilgrimage and is now back home in Taiwan after riding for 68 days across mainland China.

On the last leg in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Chen had a highly unusual encounter with Bishop Paul Xie Tingzhe.

“I was taking photos inside the church in Urumqi City and I asked an old man there if he was a priest,” says Chen, a retired teacher. “To my surprise, he told me he was the bishop!”

Bishop Xie then said with a sigh that the Chinese government does not recognize his status as a prelate.

“I told him that God’s recognition is the most important,” says Chen.

That three-day trip to Xinjiang was arduous for Chen and, for a while, he considered giving up. “But then I remembered that the road map I designed for this trip had the outline of a peace dove. So I decided to carry on with my adventure in China in order to keep the map complete,” he says.

Before his departure, Bishop Martin Su Yao-wen of Taichung advised Chen to keep a low profile. But he was constantly recognized by Catholics and his exploits caught the attention of the local media in several provinces.

“I encountered no mishaps,” he says. “I felt sincere friendship from the mainland Catholic brothers and sisters. They asked about my age and my motives for this trip, and helped me with daily necessities.”

Chen’s tour, which started on March 25, will see him visit churches in at least 54 countries, stretching as far as Western Europe. He estimates it will take a total of 214 days and cover 14,000 kilometers.

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