Pope Francis welcomed 26 Chinese priests to a general papal audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. They had attended the spring session organized by the Verbiest Institute KU Leuven (Belgium) before meeting the pope on April 25. A priest from Inner Mongolia presented the pope with a chasuble made by Catholics in the Chinese autonomous region. Pope Francis blessed the church in Inner Mongolia as a sign of gratitude for their gift and their Christian witnessing. He told the priests that he supports their pastoral and evangelizing work in their dioceses in China and keeps them in his prayers. He also asked priests to pray for him. The audience was centered on the catechesis on baptism through the inspiration of the letter to the Philippians (4:13): "I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." Pope Francis receives the gift of a chasuble from an Inner Mongolian priest. (Photo supplied)
The pope also had a special prayer for the April 27 Inter-Korean summit. He asked the Lord and all related leaders that it may become a step toward long-lasting reconciliation and peace. The priests were earlier received at the Propaganda Fide by Cardinal Fernando Filoni
, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who also spoke positively about developing close cooperation with the church in China. Archbishop Claudio Celli, who has visited China several times, presided at a concelebration with the priests in the chapel in front of the tomb of St. Peter at St. Peter's Basilica. The Verbiest Foundation was founded in 1982 at Leuven University (Belgium) by the CICM Missionary Congregation. It remains faithful to its aims of keeping open the bridges of dialogue and encounter built throughout the years between the Chinese Church and the universal church.