March 11, 2013

Asking forgiveness for their “weaknesses and limitations,” especially for their difficulty accepting his decision to resign, a group of Chinese Catholics thanked Pope Benedict XVI for eight years of loving attention.

“No matter what conflicts and harm occurred, no matter how sad and disappointed we made you feel, you always embraced China and the Catholic Church in China with fatherly love,” the group said in the letter released by the Vatican Feb. 28.

The Vatican said the text was sent by a group of Chinese “bishops, priests, religious men and women and laypeople.”

The Chinese Catholics said news of the pope’s decision to resign was “shocking and sad,” and they wished they had had a chance to meet the pope at the Vatican or, even, that the pope would have had a chance to visit them in China.

“You tried to promote dialogue and alleviate the cross we bear by showing your concern and by blessing China and the Chinese people,” the letter said.

They thanked him for his 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, encouraging steps to bridge the gap between Catholics registered with the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association and the so-called underground communities, whose leaders were frequently harassed or imprisoned by the authorities.

The letter also asked government authorities for dialogue on the appointment of bishops.

A number of bishops were subsequently ordained with both papal and government approval, before the government returned to the practice of choosing bishops without the Vatican’s approval.