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Chinese Catholics flocking to see papal journey

Events in Thailand and Japan give Chinese faithful a chance to see Pope Francis

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Chinese Catholics flocking to see papal journey

Nuns sit ahead of a ceremony with Pope Francis at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Nov. 24. (Photo: AFP)

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Chinese Catholics have taken the opportunity of Pope Francis’ trips to Thailand and Japan to flock to his Masses and appearances.

It remains unclear when, if ever, the pope will have the opportunity to visit China, a country that has never hosted any pontiff and remains in negotiations with the Vatican about details concerning the September 2018 deal on the appointment of bishops.

There are 10-12 million Catholics in China, roughly split 50-50 between the official church sanctioned by the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the underground church. 

As well as the strong Chinese presence for the pope's apostolic journey — also expected at the Mass at the Tokyo Dome on Nov. 25 — groups of South Koreans are attending Masses and other papal events in Japan.

About 10 percent of South Korea’s population are Catholics, the third highest ratio in Asia.

Thai media reported a strong showing from Chinese Catholics at the Mass at the National Stadium in Bangkok on Nov. 21.

At the Nagasaki Mass on Nov. 24, a section of seating was reserved for US forces stationed in Japan.

The pope’s only Sunday Mass on this Asia trip threatened to be affected by rain but the sun came out shortly before the event began.

In Bangkok, tour groups of Chinese Catholics arrived in the Thai capital last week with plans to see the pope. On Nov. 22, many waited in the city’s notoriously hot sun for the pope at St. Peter’s Church near Bangkok.

“Actually, we want Papa to come to China as well, but it’s hard to invite him,” a Chinese expat named Anna, from Sichuan province, told news outlet Khaosod.

“We really want Papa to have a chance to come to China. That’s all of our Chinese Christians’ wish. Please pray for China. I think God loves China — that’s why we have this special experience in China,” added Anna, who works as a Chinese teacher in Thailand.

The Khaosod report said that about 2,000 Chinese Catholics went to St. Peter's Parish to see the pope but many were initially stranded outside and refused entry.

But after waving their Chinese flags to demand entry, police eventually allowed Chinese nationals and other foreign Catholics to pass through the security gate so that they could get up close to Pope Francis when he passed by in his car.

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