FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL: THE PERSECUTED CHURCH IN CHINA
You might want to put on a new pot of coffee or have a glass of wine, depending on the time it is when you read this! I know it is long so read it piecemeal, if you wish. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal: Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte – I made this longer only because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter.
As I wrote yesterday in this column, I was in the air on my way back to Rome from a U.S. vacation, when the news broke on Saturday, September 22, of a provisional agreement signed in Beijing between China and the Holy See.
As I also wrote yesterday (in case you missed it), you know, if you follow these pages, I have been to both mainland China and to Taiwan. In 1995, I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the United Nations conference in Beijing on Women where we spent three weeks. Six years later I spent 12 days in Taiwan.
In particular during my Taiwan visit, I spoke to countless people, visited churches and Catholic villages and broke bread with dozens of priests and nuns. I listened for hours on end as priests and nuns from many different religious orders and congregations and from many different countries around the world told me their stories.
They were in Taiwan to learn the Chinese language, culture and history and traditions so that when mainland China had its own 1989 – when a wall would fall and a people would be freed from the bonds of oppression and a one system rule – they could freely go there, well-equipped to open and run Catholic schools, hospitals, universities, seminaries and convents.
I learned more than I thought I ever could on Vatican-China relations vis-à-vis the Church in China.
It is for this reason that I have been interested in and followed Holy See-China news for years but was taken aback when the provisional agreement was announced Saturday.
Yesterday, I presented the official news stories from the Vatican about the Agreement: an assessment by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, words from Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke, and a briefing note on the Church in China, including the fact that the Pope established the Diocese of Chengde in China (but he did not name a bishop as he traditionally does when he establishes a diocese or archdiocese).
We have no idea what the Agreement actually says, just a summary is offered. The Agreement is called “provisional” and thus suggests that either or both sides can change it or withdraw from it at will. We read that the Agreement is “on the appointment of Bishops” but have no idea what that means.
Cardinal Parolin says, “And today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter.” And yet that is not what we read and hear in reaction from Chinese Catholics faithful to Rome in China.
The cardinal also says: “What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities.”
I presume that when he speaks of “good Pastors,” the cardinal is referring to Bishops.. I say “presume” because it has always been my understanding that the Pope appoints Bishops –he does not recognize them.
To be clear on this last point, I must note that, when an Eastern Catholic Church such as the Maronites, Chaldeans, Melkites, etc. holds a synod and selects a new bishop for a diocese, they send that name to Rome, to the Pope who then gives his assent to the canonically correct election. For example, in May 2010, Pope Benedict consented to the election of Fr. Bashar Warda as archbishop of Erbil by the Synod of the Chaldean bishops.
So much has yet to be understood – to be explained by the Vatican – about this Agreement.
Today I offer some of the reactions, the feelings, the perplexities of those who – like me – do not share a universal joy for the September 22 Agreement, who have many questions, who wonder about the fate of those Catholics of the “underground Church” who, for decades, remained loyal to Rome and the Pope, who underwent great suffering, imprisonment and even death, just to be loyal to the Church they love.
What I am hearing from some faithful in China is that they are incredulous at this accord that seems to say nothing, guarantee nothing and betray many – words similar to those of Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong who for years has been an ardent critic of any such accord, in the following piece from his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cardzen/). In recent months I have posted several of his English-language columns on Vatican-China relations.
You will see that he speaks of his latest book on that page in Italian. It is titled “For Love of My People, I will not be silent!”
“A MASTERPIECE OF INVENTIVENESS IN SAYING NOTHING WITH MANY WORDS”
發表於 2018 年 09 月 22 日 由 oldyosef
The communiqué of the Holy See could be reduced to these words: “The Holy See has signed an Agreement with the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of Bishops.”
To say that the agreement is provisional without specifying the duration of its validity is saying nothing.
All agreements may be said to be provisional, because one of the two parties may, for any reason, demand a revision or even annulment of the Agreement. But until that happens, the agreement, though provisional, remains the valid agreement.
The agreement is about the appointment of Bishops. That has been repeated many times by the Holy See. So after so long hard work (and so long our anxious expectation) what are the conclusions? No word! (It is a secret!?)
Then what is the message this communiqué conveys to the faithful in China? “Trust us!” Accept the agreement!” (?)
With the agreement the Government can tell the Catholics: “obey to us! We are in agreement with your Pope!” (?)
Trust, accept and obey without knowing what to accept, what to obey? To obey “Tamquam cadaver” in the spirit of St. Ignatius?
In the “appointment of bishops is also included the legitimization of the seven? The bishops in the underground are going to be reappointed with the presentation by the Government, or otherwise they should be satisfied with the recognition by the Government as bishops “emeriti”?
(JFL: The “seven” the cardinal mentions are the 7 bishops of the governemt-allowed Patriotic Church whose excommunications for having been ordained without a papal mandate have been lifted by Pope Francis, two of whom have, as many articles cite, “lovers and children.”)
PAPAL ADVISOR: DIFFICULTIES NO LONGER EXIST THAT KEPT CHURCH DIVIDED INTO TWO COMMUNITIES IN CHINA
(vaticannews.va) The Director of the Jesuit periodical “Civiltà Cattolica,” Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, who is with the Pope on his journey to the Baltic Countries, spoke with Vatican News’ Alessandro De Carolis, about the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops, which was signed September 22 in Beijing.
At the start of the interview, Fr. says: “With this Agreement there are no longer those difficulties that had kept the Church divided between two communities. At this point, there are no obstacles to the communion of the Church in its globality in China, and in its relationship with the Holy Father. This is the objective achieved by this Provisional Agreement.”
I respectfully disagree. Did he go to China and speak to Catholics of the underground Church that is loyal to Rome and faithful to the Pope? Does he truly know how they feel, how hurt and disillusioned they are by this Accord? Did he talk to the bishops and faithful of the Patriotic Church Association allowed by the government that demands loyalty to Beijing, not Rome? If he did, that is not clear. Is everyone now at peace and shaking hands and of one accord on all ecclesial matters?
There actually still are “difficulties that had kept the Church divided between two communities.”
The interviewer did not mention the news about the persecution of Christians in China and Fr. Spadaro made no reference to it.
He does not explain the news coming from inside China about the Church:
CHINESE CATHOLIC CHURCH DEMOLITION IS LATEST IN SERIES OF CHURCH BULLDOZINGS
JINAN, China – A Catholic church in Jinan province, China, has been demolished by government agents, the latest in a series of church demolitions in China.
About 40 police and government workers entered Liangwang Catholic Church on the morning of July 17, ejecting three women who had been acting as caretakers. Gao Rongli, Zhang Siling and Li Xiangmei were thrown out of the building, searched, and had their cellular phones taken from them and smashed, Asia News reported.
Later in the day, a further 30 men arrived later, along with bulldozers, and proceeded to knock down the building, destroying the altar and church furnishings along with the church.
The action is reportedly linked to a local development plan for a new residential area and railway station. Discussions with the local Religious Affairs Office for the relocation of the church had been taking place, but there was no prior warning that the demolition would take place, nor has any agreement been reached on a new site for a church.
MASS APPEAL: WHY CHINA’S UNOFFICIAL CATHOLIC CHURCHES ARE A HIT WITH FOREIGN BELIEVERS
(Scmp South China Morning Post) At 10am on a Sunday morning, more than 100 foreigners wait outside one of the embassies in Beijing’s eastern Chaoyang district.
One by one they hand over passports, go through a turnstile guarded by Chinese soldiers and scan their bags before they enter a function room full of fold-out chairs facing a makeshift altar.
By the time the Catholic priest starts saying mass, the room will be packed.
Five kilometres across town on one of the city’s most famous shopping streets, a handful of Westerners join the congregation filing in for a 4pm English service at state-run St Joseph’s Church. Services are ostensibly the same at both state-sanctioned churches such as Beijing’s St Joseph’s Church and unapproved worship spaces. But the state service struck some congregants as too impersonal.
Inside the grand grey Wangfujing church originally built by Jesuit missionaries in 1655, security cameras scan the people in the pews and priests at the altar.
On the surface, the church and the embassy function room offer the same services – they are both in English, they follow the same mass format and they would be familiar to Catholics anywhere in the world.
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DESTROY WAY OF THE CROSS IN CHINA’S HENAN PROVINCE
(CNA) WEIHUI, China – The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in China’s Henan province is a popular pilgrimage site for many Catholics, where thousands have journeyed since its founding in 1903 to pray and walk the shrine’s Way of the Cross.
However, on the evening of June 5, local government authorities tore down the sanctuary’s images of Christ along the Way of the Cross, only weeks after Chinese officials told Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin of Weihui (Anyang) to dismantle the Way of the Cross without any given reason.
The Way of the Cross was demolished during the night on Tuesday, said Zhang, when “excavators and pickup trucks were driven to the site at night because authorities feared there would be too many church members in the daytime,” according to ucanews.com.
Local nuns took videos and pictures of the damages and sent them to chat groups to record the vandalism. One religious source said the Communist Party was making an example out of the sanctuary, saying the government would “allow Catholicism to exist but not develop.”
VATICAN AGREEMENT WITH CHINA COULD ‘DEAL BLOW’ TO CATHOLIC CHURCH
(FROM FEBRUARY 2018) – The Catholic church risks damaging its moral authority and plunging its followers into confusion if the Vatican presses ahead with an imminent deal with the Chinese government, a group of influential Catholics has warned.
Fifteen lawyers, academics and human rights activists, most based in Hong Kong, have signed an open letter to bishops across the world expressing dismay at an agreement which would involve the Vatican recognising seven bishops appointed by China’s Communist party.
The deal is aimed at restoring relations between China and the Vatican, which were cut almost 70 years ago. But the group of leading Catholics say it could create a schism in the church in China.
“We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the church, but also … deal a blow to the church’s moral power,” the letter says. “Please rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.”
‘THE VOICE OF CHINESE CATHOLICS IS MISSING FROM CHINA-VATICAN DIALOGUE’
by Shan Ren Shen Fu (山人神父)
The possible agreement between Beijing and the Vatican will be signed without the presence of any Chinese Catholics. Not only, the members of the Church in China are being kept totally in the dark about what is being discussed, even if those involved claim to speak of “ecclesial matters”. The analysis of a priest-blogger in an article immediately taken down by the police who censor the internet in China.
(JFL: THIS WAS PUBLISHED SEPT- 21; A DAY BEFORE AGREEMENT MADE PUBLIC) Beijing (AsiaNews) – In the China-Vatican dialogue which, according to many different rumors, should reach an agreement by the end of September, the voice of the Chinese Church is missing. And if the Vatican also represents the Chinese Church, why are Chinese Catholics kept in the dark and nothing is communicated to them about what is being discussed? These are some perplexities expressed by a Chinese priest on his blog. Another perplexity expressed by Shanren Shenfu (the name of the priest-blogger) is on the “ecclesial” character of the agreement, which instead seems to have only political connotations. His friends, who sent us this text, fear for his safety. The priest points out that, knowing nothing about this agreement, “we do not really know whether we must rejoice or if we must expect a heavier cross”. However, he remains amazed that the possible signature of the agreement takes place while completley ignoring “the reality of the faith in China, all kinds of persecution and difficulties that are taking place”. With great diligence, the internet police immediately took down his reflection, which we publish in full below.
READ ON FOR THAT REFLECTION: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/’The-voice-of-Chinese-Catholics-is-missing-from-China-Vatican-dialogue’-45002.html
THE CHINESE CHURCH ‘REMAINS INDEPENDENT AND LOYAL TO THE PARTY’
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Chinese Catholic Church “will continue to operate independently. We love the country and the Church, we will carry forward the principle of independence and the concept of the sinicization of religion while remaining on the path that leads to socialist society “.
This was written by members of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics and the Council of Bishops of the Church of China (bodies not recognized by the Holy See) in a public note issued yesterday, the day after the “historic agreement” between China and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops in the Asian country.
The signature of the agreement is welcomed “with a heartfelt appreciation” and the Chinese Catholic Church emphasizes that it “belongs to the same faith” of the Catholic Churches of other countries: “We want to pursue friendly exchanges and improve mutual understanding. On the basis of independence, respect, equality and good faith.”
CHINESE CATHOLICS: HOPE AND SADNESS AT CHINA AND THE HOLY SEE AGREEMENT
Rome (AsiaNews) – There is hope and concern, sadness and uneasiness among Chinese Catholics at the news of the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops signed between China and the Holy See. There are criticisms of illicit bishops who have been excommunicated because they “have lovers and children” and are “loyal collaborators of the regime against the Lord”, together with requests to be able to see and know of the text of the agreement.
There are also those who present a whole series of questions regarding the agreement which needs answers, perhaps in the near future; those who remembers the imprisoned bishops and ask for their release. Msgr. Guo Xijin, bishop of Mindong, who should become an auxiliary of Msgr. Vincenzo Zhan Silu, barely re-admitted to Catholic communion (he was one of the excommunicated bishops), prefers to remain silent. Another, who should be replaced – or share the responsibility of the diocese – with one of the former excommunicated bishops – says he knows nothing of his future destiny. Some say that the interim agreement will bring even more confusion to the Church and China. The names of the people have been changed or omitted for security reasons.
We know nothing about the agreement, and therefore we cannot say anything. I see the positive comments of Card. Parolin, and the negative ones of Card. Zen. There is no trust in the Party, and we are worried about the Vatican’s scant knowledge regarding the Chinese Communist Party. The United States has understood it after 40 years of commercial experience.
I could go on and on….
However, I want to end with a request for prayers for all Chinese Catholics, those of the underground Church and those of the Patriotic Association, that they might find a path to true ecclesial unity and do so peacefully.
Here is a link to the prayer that Benedict XVI offered the world on the occasion of the World Day Prayer for the Church in China (May 24, 2008): https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html