Four Chinese bishops visited Europe and met church leaders on September 8, 2023.
On September 8, they met Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, Archbishop Emeritus of Mechelen-Brussel, Belgium.
This visit of a few days, prepared by the Verbiest Foundation, marks the resumption of exchanges between the churches of Belgium and China.
From September 7 to 9, four Chinese bishops visited Belgium at the invitation of Cardinal De Kesel, president of the Verbiest-Louvain Foundation.
The delegation included Bishop Jozef Guo and Paul Pei, respectively, from the Chengde and Pine Tree missions, formerly led by Scheut missionaries and Bishop Cui of Wuhan, and Bishop Liu Xinghong of Anhui.
The bishops obtained authorization from the Chinese civil government to negotiate with the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation in Louvain the resumption, after COVID-19, of the intensive exchange program with the Church of China that the Foundation has been organizing in Louvain for 40 years.
The bishops, in collaboration with the Louvain Foundation, wish to relaunch the training sessions for priests, religious, and laity in China.
Since 2015, the Foundation has organized twice a month an intensive one-month training session in Chinese on pastoral care, catechesis, social teaching, and spirituality as taught by Vatican II.
After the sessions, the participants traveled to Rome on a pilgrimage, where Pope Francis welcomed them.
On September 8, the Chinese delegation, accompanied by members of the Verbiest Foundation, was the guest of Cardinal Jozef De Kesel in Mechelen.
After lunch, they had a consultation together, celebrated the Eucharist, and presented the Chinese translation of his book, "Faith and Religion in a Secular Society."
On September 9, the bishops visited the provincial house of Scheut (Anderlecht) and the tomb of Father Theofiel Verbiest (12 June 1823–23 February 1868), a Belgian Catholic priest who founded the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM).
They commemorate the 679 Scheutists who followed their founder to northern China from 1865 to 1949, of whom 252 are buried in China.
After they visit Belgium, the Chinese bishops will make two "stopovers" in the Netherlands and then travel to Paris from September 12 to 15.
All these visits are considered important steps on the path of dialogue and exchange, in full line with Pope Francis.
The Verbiest Foundation, founded 40 years ago by Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, feels ready to continue fulfilling its role in the decades to come to promote the option for China, defined by the founder of the CICM, Theofiel Verbiest, in promoting dialogue with China around the world.
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