In an effort to establish better ties between the Roman Catholic church and China, twenty two priests were able to sit front-row in the Pope's audience on wed, where they were able to shake hands with the Pontiff.
These priests were sent to Europe by bishops in China to be trained on the latest approach to spiritual and psychological problems that will be incorporated into the Chinese seminaries' curriculum.
They have already undergone intense seminar training in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenyang, Wuhan, Jilin, and other provinces in China before arriving in Europe where they received more training.
In Germany, they went through two weeks worth of workshops on spirituality, psychology, and vocational support and, traveled to an Abby, near Florence, where they were able to witness the monks living the austere life according to the Benedictine.
However, besides the training, the priests looked forward mainly to meeting the Pope at the general audience where they offered the Pontiff a Chinese bible, signed by all of the priests, and a Chinese card as a gift.
After meeting the Pontiff, the Chinese expressed their amazement by saying to AsiaNews that,
"I would never have believed that I was going to see the Pope so close up," said a priest from Xian.
Another comment came from a priest from Chengdu who said, "I am moved, […] many back home will envy us [because of] this unexpected gift."
The group comprised of eleven spiritual fathers, five heads of seminary, and six vice rectors, with the youngest at thirty and the oldest at seventy four.