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Vatican's top Chinese official laments resignation

Announcement 'left me stunned' says Savio Hon Tai Fai

  • Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
  • Vatican City
  • February 13, 2013
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The Vatican's top Chinese official on Tuesday expressed his shock and sadness at Pope Benedict XVI's sudden resignation, but praised the pontiff's “humility” despite the confusion it has provoked.

“This news was out of the blue and has left me stunned,” wrote Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“On the one hand my heart feels so heavy,” he said in a statement published by Catholic news agency Fides. “But on the other I wholeheartedly respect the pope. He is always my beloved pastor, father and teacher.”

Archbishop Hon was appointed by Pope Benedict in December 2010 to the post, where he oversees the Vatican's tense relationship with China.

During the eight years of his pontificate, Benedict pushed hard for the improvement of the situation of the Catholic Church in China.

He penned a 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics in which he called for the end of decades of attempts by the state to control the Church and to overcome the division among China's Catholics between those considered loyal to the government and those considered loyal to the Vatican.

But despite Benedict's efforts, progress has been slow. In recent years, relations between Beijing and Rome plunged to a new low with a spate of government-mandated bishop ordinations despite Vatican opposition, as well as the suspension of a Shanghai bishop who had announced he wanted to sever his ties with the state-backed Church organization.

Hon's message concludes with praise for Benedict's unexpected choice to leave his post.

“He has done everything for the good of the Church. His resignation may mean an 'amen' before God. His body due to his age is fragile, but the spirit is strong. The pope’s humility has won my heart again!”

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