The text of the letter (available in Chinese, English, French and Italian).
My initial thoughts:
This is a loving and understanding letter, which seeks to initiate a dialogue with the Chinese authorities and to reconcile the 'Patriotic' and Underground Churches in China. It acknowledges the difficulties which Chinese Catholics have faced and continue to face, while also acknowledging the progress that has been made in allowing greater communication between the Chinese bishops and Rome.
While recognising that some Chinese bishops have not been consecrated legitimately, the Pope points out that the position of many bishops has been regularised, and that part of the difficulty has been in the failure in many cases to give sufficient publicity to that regularisation.
Where a bishop has not been consecrated legitimately, the Pope states that sacraments conferred by that bishop are nevertheless valid. This will give great comfort to ordinary lay people who have remained faithful in the sincere practice of their religion, often having no choice over whether to attend a Patriotic or an Underground church.
It should be remembered that it is not only the Underground Church which has suffered and which has a legitimate claim to our sympathy and prayers. I see it as very positive that the Pope has not explicitly differentiated between the Patriotic and the Underground Churches in his letter.
The Pope concludes with the words:
May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of China, who at the hour of the Cross patiently awaited the morning of the Resurrection in the silence of hope, accompany you with maternal solicitude and intercede for all of you, together with Saint Joseph and the countless Holy Martyrs of China.
I assure you of my constant prayers and, with affectionate remembrance of the elderly, the sick, the children and young people of your noble Nation, I bless you from my heart.
On a more flippant note, how come every other news source describes it as a 28-page letter, while Time magazine calls it a 55-page letter? Were they alone in getting the unabridged version?