Pope Congratulates Asian Peoples on Lunar New Year

Greeting at End of Angelus Encounter

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II congratulated the peoples of Asia as they prepare to celebrate their New Year this week.

At the end of his traditional meeting today with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father greeted the «great peoples of the East, especially the Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans, who during the next few days are celebrating with joy the end of the lunar year.»

«I assure them of my closeness and sincerely wish them peace and prosperity,» he added, speaking from the window of his study.

On this occasion, the East is celebrating the start of the lunar New Year 4702 — the Year of the Monkey.

«This greeting is the sign that the universal Church has not forgotten us,» a Catholic doctor and member of the underground Catholic Church told AsiaNews.it.

«I have waited for a long time for a word from the Pope, as for some time, we have heard nothing about relations between China and the Vatican,» added the doctor, who asked for anonymity.

«The year-end celebration is for us like a family meal, a celebration of unity and renewal,» he continued. «I would like to say to the Pope that here, in Beijing, there is always a place, a place for the head of the family kept for you. The Lord has worked a miracle in preserving your health; we are asking for another: Come to China next year!»

Another Catholic of Beijing’s underground Church added: «For years and years we have waited for the time when we can meet in freedom with the universal Church, with all our Catholic brethren.»

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