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Beijing Religious Scholars Carry Academic Dialogue To Britain

Updated: June 14, 2006 05:00 PM GMT
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The role and function of faith in a globalized world was the theme of an academic dialogue struck up by a delegation of mainland Chinese religious scholars, including two Catholic priests, when they visited Britain recently.

Led by Father Peter Zhao Jianmin of Beijing diocese, the four-person delegation visited universities in Birmingham, Cambridge, Liverpool, London and Oxford, and the Anglican and Catholic Churches on its May 10-20 trip.

Father Zhao, director of Beijing diocese´s Institute for the Study of Christianity and Culture, told UCA News May 26 that the visit advanced academic dialogue between the China Church and theologians on the world scene. In the past, he noted, visits of mainland clergy to other countries have been mostly for pilgrimages or training.

Pointing to the lack of Chinese scholar-priests on the mainland, Father Zhao said the Church there could promote scholarship by adopting positive and substantial policies to support theological research.

The China Church, he continued, should learn more about the conceptual development of Catholic theology, which links the local Church to the teaching of the universal Church. He also suggested more research on inculturation so the Gospel could be spread throughout Chinese civilization.

A press release put out by the trip organizer, Cultural Exchange with China, which is linked with the Columbans, noted that the visit to Britain follows up a 2004 academic visit to China that the group sponsored.

On May 12, Father Zhao presented a paper on Catholic social teachings and Chinese culture at the University of London´s Heythrop College.

Aside from Father Zhao, the Chinese delegation comprised Wang Meixiu from the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yang Huilin from the Institute of Christian Culture of Renmin University of China and Father Joseph Yang Yu of Beijing diocese, who teaches at the diocesan major seminary.

Each member presented a paper on a particular aspect of the general theme at various exchanges.

Yang Huilin presented a paper on May 11 at Cambridge University on the inculturation of Christianity in a globalized world.

Wang told UCA News May 26 that she presented a paper on May 16 at Hope University, Liverpool, on Young People´s Attitudes toward Today´s World and Christianity in China. In it she says many college students in China seek a full spiritual life and a religion to help purify their hearts in the face of secularism, materialism and relativism that are sweeping big cities there.

From the trip, she said, she now knows more about the relationship between the Catholic and Anglican Churches, and believes that British research on globalization and Catholic social teachings is more advanced than Chinese research on these issues. Despite theological differences, there has been cooperation between the two Churches on matters of concern to the Church in China and in terms of ecumenical movements, she continued.

The itinerary included a May 19 discussion on interreligious dialogue with the Committee for Other Faiths of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of England and Wales. Father Yang spoke on similar dialogues in Britain and China.

Local participants included David Thompson, fellow and president of Cambridge University´s Fitzwilliam College, and Brian Stanley, director of the Henry Martyn Centre for the Study of Mission and World Christianity, in Cambridge.

According to the May 24 press release from Cultural Exchange with China, there was some discussion during the exchange at Lambeth Palace on the China visit of Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, this coming autumn. The Anglican leadership received the delegation there at the archbishop´s official residence on May 12.

The trip provided "intense dialogue and exchange between Catholic and secular scholars from China," Father Zhao said in the press release.

It called the trip "round two in a process of academic dialogue and exchange between Britain and China, sponsored by Catholic organizations." It says the scholars that went to China in 2004 had exchanges with the Institute for the Study of Culture and Christianity, in Beijing, the Catholic seminary in Shanghai and the philosophy department of Fudan University, also in Shanghai.

According to the website of the Columbans in Britain (www.columbans.co.uk), Cultural Exchange with China consists of Columban missioners and other individuals and organizations who are interested in China, including teachers who have worked in China and representatives of various Catholic societies.

Columban Father Eamonn O´Brien, director of Cultural Exchange with China, said in the press release that the group aims to build bridges between the Catholic Church in Britain and in China, with emphasis on ecumenical, interfaith and global issues.


(Accompanying photos available at here)

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