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Bishop Awaits 2008 Olympics
Catholic Bishop Michael Tieshan Fu is promoting the provision of religious services for athletes and sports fans in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games.

"The Church is making arrangements for priests, nuns and divinity school students to learn foreign languages like English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Korean," he said.

Fu, who is also chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), said that the independent Chinese Catholic Church has always assisted foreign believers in practicing their religious faith at local churches.

In recent years, the Chinese Catholic Church has dispatched nearly 100 priests, seminarians, and nuns to study theology in the United States, France, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea. Some have obtained doctorate or master's degrees and have returned to take up teaching posts at seminaries and convents in China.

Dai Jing, a nun with CPCA, said that in Beijing, the Church has helped more than 1,800 followers learn foreign languages since 2000 and that over 400 followers are receiving language training through divinity schools during summer vacations.

"All of this training is free," Dai said, adding that some priests, nuns and followers can speak two or three foreign languages.

"I believe that there will be no problems for them to handle religious activities in foreign languages in 2008."

Chinese religious groups have won international praise for their services at international conferences held in China in previous years.

At the Fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, religious groups in Beijing provided religious services for representatives to the conference, with temporary sites for religious activities set up at the main venues of the Asian Games Village and the NGO Forum venue in Huairou County in suburban Beijing.

During the conference, religious groups and sites in Beijing received more than 10,000 representatives from 103 countries and regions, including Gertrude Mongella, secretary-general of the conference, former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, former US president George Bush, and officials in charge of women's affairs in world religious organizations.

At last year's 21st Universiade, various religious services were also provided for foreign athletes and sports fans in foreign languages.

Priest Feng Guoxin at Xishiku Church in the city said that more and more foreign Catholic believers in Beijing are coming to attend the mass at Xishiku and other Catholic churches.

"We have mass in English, French and Korean in order to meet the increasing demand by foreigners for religious activities in Beijing," said Dai.

According to statistics from the CPCA, in July, 4,282 foreigners celebrated mass in Beijing's Catholic churches.

(China Daily August 6, 2002)

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