Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik On Taiwan: China and Pope Francis’ pastoral mission

I mention this because on Sept. 15, 2016, Father Matteo (then 82) was in Rome. In memory of his sainted mother, Chu T’ing-t’ing (朱婷婷) whose sons all were imprisoned for their faith by the communists, Matteo attended a Mass at the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae in honor of suffering mothers of prisoners. Pope Francis said Mass, and preached, “It happened so many times, when I went to the diocese of Buenos Aires to visit the prisoners, to see the queue, the row of women waiting to go in: they were mothers but they were not ashamed, their flesh was imprisoned there.” The Holy Father is no stranger to dictators and their prisons.

After that Mass, Pope Francis received the communicants, and when Father Matteo Zhu’s turn came, he introduced himself to the Holy Father: “I am a Jesuit, my mother was mother to four Jesuits, all were in prison, the oldest died in prison in 1983.” Francis’ eyes widened in recognition, “Your brother is Francis Xavier.”

Pope Francis kissed Father Matteo’s hands. “Your Brother Francis Xavier was a very brave priest, we all know of his witness for the Lord.” It happened that Father Francis Xavier Chu’s ashes were given to his family in Shanghai who in 1984 conveyed them to Rome via a physician family friend. The friend got as far as Buenos Aires and entrusted the urn to the archbishop — Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis — who was moved by the sacrifice of his brother Jesuit in China. As a Jesuit, Pope Francis draws great inspiration from Saint Francis Xavier and all Jesuits who bear his name. Father Francis Xavier Chu’s memorial stone is now at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Changhua, Taiwan. I do not believe the pope has forgotten Taiwan.

Here, I confess that, in June 1960, I was confirmed in the Catholic faith at Saint Christopher’s Church in Taipei, in the name of “Francis Xavier,” by Bishop Frederick A. Donaghy of the Maryknoll missionaries, who himself as imprisoned in 1949 and deported from China to Taiwan in 1955. So I’ve always had a soft spot for Jesuits by that name. I’m inclined to trust in the Holy Father in his pastoral mission for Catholics in China and his deep affection for the people of Taiwan.

John J. Tkacik, Jr is a retired US foreign service officer who has served in Taipei and Beijing and is now director of the Future Asia Project at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

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