The Church in China

Holy See Statement on Episcopal Ordinations in China

VATICAN CITY, JULY 10, 2012 - The following is the communique released by the Holy See this morning on the episcopal ordination of the Reverend Joseph Yue Fusheng in Harbin and the Reverend Thaddeus Ma Daqin as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai.

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"With regard to the episcopal ordination of the Reverend Joseph Yue Fusheng, which took place in Harbin (Province of Heilongjiang) on Friday 6 July 2012, the following is stated:

1) The Reverend Joseph Yue Fusheng, ordained without pontifical mandate and hence illicitly, has automatically incurred the sanctions laid down by canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him as Bishop of the Apostolic Administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the Province of Heilongjiang.

The Reverend Yue Fusheng had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, and on several occasions he had been asked not to accept episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate.

2) The Bishops who took part in the illicit episcopal ordination and have exposed themselves to the sanctions laid down by the law of the Church, must give an account to the Holy See of their participation in that religious ceremony.

3) Appreciation is due to those priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful who prayed and fasted for a change of heart in the Reverend Yue Fusheng, for the holiness of the Bishops and for the unity of the Church in China, particularly in the Apostolic Administration of Harbin.

4) All Catholics in China, pastors, priests, consecrated persons, and lay faithful, are called to defend and safeguard that which pertains to the doctrine and tradition of the Church. Even amid the present difficulties, they look to the future with faith, comforted by the certainty that the Church is founded on the rock of Peter and his Successors.

5) The Apostolic See, trusting in the concrete willingness of the Government Authorities of China to dialogue with the Holy See, hopes that the said authorities will not encourage gestures contrary to such dialogue. Chinese Catholics also wish to see practical steps taken in this direction, the first among which is the avoidance of illicit celebrations and episcopal ordinations without pontifical mandate that cause division and bring suffering to the Catholic communities in China and the universal Church.

The ordination of the Reverend Thaddeus Ma Daqin as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai on Saturday 7 July 2012 is encouraging and is to be welcomed. The presence of a bishop who is not in communion with the Holy Father was inappropriate and shows a lack of consideration for a lawful episcopal ordination".


Vatican Statement on China Ordination
"The Holy See Reaffirms the Right of Chinese Catholics to Be Able to Act Freely"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 17, 2011 - Here is the Holy See statement released Saturday in regard to the most recent episcopal ordination in China carried out without papal approval.

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Episcopal Ordination in the Diocese of Shantou
(Province of Guangdong, Mainland China)

The following clarifications are issued with reference to the episcopal ordination of the Reverend Joseph Huang Bingzhang which took place on Thursday, 14 July 2011:

1) The Reverend Joseph Huang Bingzhang, having been ordained without papal mandate and hence illicitly, has incurred the sanctions laid down by canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him as Bishop of the Diocese of Shantou, and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of the Diocese.
The Reverend Huang Bingzhang had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the Diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate Bishop; Reverend Huang had been asked on numerous occasions not to accept episcopal ordination.

2) From various sources the Holy See had knowledge of the fact that some Bishops, contacted by the civil authorities, had expressed their unwillingness to take part in an illicit ordination and also offered various forms of resistance, yet were reportedly obliged to take part in the ordination.
With regard to this resistance, it should be noted that it is meritorious before God and calls for appreciation on the part of the whole Church. Equal appreciation is also due to those priests, consecrated persons and members of the faithful who have defended their pastors, accompanying them by their prayers at this difficult time and sharing in their deep suffering.

3) The Holy See reaffirms the right of Chinese Catholics to be able to act freely, following their consciences and remaining faithful to the Successor of Peter and in communion with the universal Church.
The Holy Father, having learned of these events, once again deplores the manner in which the Church in China is being treated and hopes that the present difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible.

From the Vatican, 16 July 2011


Benedict XVI's Appeal for the Church in China
"We Can Help Them to Find the Path to Keep Their Faith Alive"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2011 - Here is the appeal Benedict XVI made today on behalf of the Church in China. He delivered the appeal at the end of the general audience held in St. Peter's Square for the Church in China.

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During the Easter season, the liturgy sings to Christ risen from the dead, conqueror of death and sin, living and present in the life of the Church and in the affairs of the world. The Good news of God’s Love made manifest in Christ, the Lamb that was slain, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, is constantly spreading until it reaches the ends of the earth, and at the same time it encounters rejection and obstacles in every part of the world. Now, as then, the Cross leads to the Resurrection.

Tuesday, 24 May, is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai: the whole Church joins in prayer with the Church in China. There, as elsewhere, Christ is living out his passion. While the number of those who accept him as their Lord is increasing, there are others who reject Christ, who ignore him or persecute him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). The Church in China, especially at this time, needs the prayers of the universal Church. In the first place, therefore, I invite all Chinese Catholics to continue and to deepen their own prayers, especially to Mary, the powerful Virgin. At the same time all Catholics throughout the world have a duty to pray for the Church in China: those members of the faithful have a right to our prayers, they need our prayers.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that when Peter was in prison, everyone prayed fervently, and as a result, an angel came to free him. Let us do likewise: let us all pray together intensely for this Church, trusting that by our prayers we can do something very real for her.

Chinese Catholics, as they have said many times, want unity with the universal Church, with the Supreme Pastor, with the Successor of Peter. By our prayers we can obtain for the Church in China that it remain one, holy and Catholic, faithful and steadfast in doctrine and in ecclesial discipline. She deserves all our affection.

We know that among our brother Bishops there are some who suffer and find themselves under pressure in the exercise of their episcopal ministry. To them, to the priests and to all the Catholics who encounter difficulties in the free profession of faith, we express our closeness. By our prayers we can help them to find the path to keep their faith alive, to keep their hope strong, to keep their love for all people ardent, and to maintain in its integrity the ecclesiology that we have received from the Lord and the Apostles, which has been faithfully transmitted to us right down to the present day. By our prayers we can obtain that their wish to remain in the one universal Church will prove stronger than the temptation to follow a path independent of Peter. Prayer can obtain, for them and for us, the joy and the strength to proclaim and to bear witness, with complete candour and without impediment, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the New Man, the conqueror of sin and death.

With all of you I ask Mary to intercede that all of them may be ever more closely conformed to Christ and may give themselves ever more generously to their brethren. I ask Mary to enlighten those who are in doubt, to call back the straying, to console the afflicted, to strengthen those who are ensnared by the allure of opportunism. Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, pray for us!

Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana



VATICAN CITY, 14 APR 2011 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy See Press Office published the following English-language communique on the IVth Plenary Meeting, held in the Vatican from 11 to 13 April, of the Commission instituted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 to study questions of major importance concerning the life of the Church in China.

At the end of the meeting, the participants addressed a message to Chinese Catholics:

"1. Moved by love for the Church in China , by sorrow for the trials you are undergoing and by the desire to encourage you, we deepened our knowledge of the ecclesial situation by means of a panoramic vision of the organization and life of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions in your country. We noted the general climate of disorientation and anxiety about the future, the sufferings of some circumscriptions deprived of Pastors, the internal divisions of others, the preoccupation of still others who do not have sufficient personnel and means to tackle the phenomena of growing urbanization and depopulation of rural areas.

"From an examination of the information, there also emerged a living faith and an experience of the Church, capable of dialoguing in a fruitful way with the social realities of each territory.

"2. We encourage the Bishops, together with their priests, to conform themselves ever more closely to Christ the Good Shepherd, to ensure that their faithful do not lack education in the faith, to stimulate a just industriousness and to strive to build, wherever they are lacking and are necessary, new places of worship and education in the faith and, especially, to form mature Christian communities. We also invite Pastors to take care of the life of the faithful with renewed commitment and enthusiasm, especially in its essential elements of catechesis and liturgy. We exhort the same Pastors to teach priests, by their own example, to love, forgive and remain faithful. We also invite ecclesial communities to continue to proclaim the Gospel with ever more intense fervour, while we unite ourselves to their gratitude to God for the baptism of adults, which will be celebrated during the upcoming days of Easter.

"3. We dwelt in particular on some difficulties which have recently emerged in your communities.

"As far as the sad episode of the episcopal ordination in Chengde is concerned, the Holy See, on the basis of the information and testimonies it has so far received, while having no reason to consider it invalid, does regard it as gravely illegitimate, since it was conferred without the Papal mandate, and this also renders illegitimate the exercise of the ministry. We are also saddened because this took place after a series of consensual episcopal ordinations and because the consecrating Bishops were subjected to various constrictions. As the Holy Father wrote in his Letter of 2007: 'the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special care since this touches the very heart of the life of the Church, inasmuch as the appointment of Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of the unity of the Church and of hierarchical communion. For this reason the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 1382) lays down grave sanctions both for the Bishop who freely confers episcopal ordination without an apostolic mandate and for the one who receives it: such an ordination in fact inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and constitutes a grave violation of canonical discipline. The Pope, when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a Bishop, exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and this intervention remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is not, therefore, a question of a political authority, unduly asserting itself in the internal affairs of a State and offending against its sovereignty' (No. 9).

"The external pressures and constrictions could mean that excommunication is not automatically incurred. However, there remains a grave wound, perpetrated on the ecclesial body. Every Bishop involved is therefore obliged to refer to the Holy See and find the means of explaining his position to the priests and faithful, renewing his profession of fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff, to help them to overcome their interior suffering and repair the external scandal caused.

"We are close to you in these difficult times. We invite priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful to understand the difficulties of their Bishops, to encourage them, to support them by their solidarity and prayer.

"4. With regard to the 8th National Assembly of Catholic Representatives, the words of the Holy Father, once again, are inspiring: 'Considering "Jesus' original plan", it is clear that the claim of some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine, according to which the Church is "apostolic", as the II Vatican Council underlined. (...) Likewise, the declared purpose of the aforementioned entities to implement "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church" is incompatible with Catholic doctrine' (No. 7).

"5. The choice of Pastors for the governance of the numerous vacant dioceses is an urgent necessity, and, at the same time, a source of deep concern. The Commission strongly hopes that there will not be new wounds to ecclesial communion, and asks the Lord for strength and courage for all of the persons involved. Concerning this, one should also bear in mind what Pope Benedict XVI has written: 'The Holy See would desire to be completely free to appoint Bishops; therefore, considering the recent particular developments of the Church in China, I trust that an accord can be reached with the Government so as to resolve certain questions regarding the choice of candidates for the episcopate, the publication of the appointment of Bishops, and the recognition - concerning civil effects where necessary - of the new Bishops on the part of the civil authorities' (No. 9). We make these desires ours and we look with trepidation and fear to the future: we know that it is not entirely in our hands and we launch an appeal so that the problems do not grow and that the divisions are not deepened, at the expense of harmony and peace.

" 6. In examining the situation of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions, various difficulties regarding their boundaries have emerged. Concerning this, the necessity of taking note of the changed circumstances was recognised as well as the need of respecting the ecclesiastical norms and always keeping in mind what is written in the Papal Letter to the Catholics in China: 'I wish to confirm that the Holy See is prepared to address the entire question of the circumscriptions and ecclesiastical provinces in an open and constructive dialogue with the Chinese Episcopate and - where opportune and helpful - with governmental authorities' (No. 11).

"7. Finally, we dwelt on the theme of formation of seminarians and female religious, inside and outside of China ... We have noted with pleasure that the Catholic communities in China organise within themselves initiatives for the purpose of formation.

"8. We hope that the sincere and respectful dialogue with the civil authorities may help to overcome the difficulties of the present moment, so that the relations with the Catholic Church may also contribute to harmony in society.

"9. We have learnt with joy the news that the diocese of Shanghai can start the beatification cause of Paul Xu Guangqi, which will be added to that of Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J.

"10. To overcome the difficult situations of each community, prayer will be of great help. Various initiatives can be organised, which will help to renew your communication of faith in Our Lord Jesus and of fidelity to the Pope, so that the unity among you may be ever more deepened and visible.

" 11. In the gathering that took place at the end of the Plenary Meeting, His Holiness recognised the desire for unity with the See of Peter and with the Universal Church which the Chinese faithful never cease to manifest, notwithstanding being in the midst of many difficulties and afflictions. The faith of the Church, set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to be defended even at the price of sacrifice, is the foundation on which the Catholic communities in China should grow in unity and communion".


A Disappearing Line  by Anthony E. Clark

Since the founding of the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, Catholics there have suffered horrifying persecution. Article 88 of the first constitution of the PRC, enacted on September 20, 1952, acknowledged the freedom to hold religious beliefs, but this freedom was permitted only insofar as the faithful did not participate in counterrevolutionary activities.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976) declared in one of his early speeches: "Please make certain that you strike surely, accurately, and relentlessly in suppressing the counterrevolutionaries."1 Thus, while religious tolerance was heralded during the PRC's first decades, religious observance was conveniently viewed as counterrevolutionary; in 1951, two years after the founding of the PRC, nearly all of China's Catholic clergy and religious were expelled from China or arrested as counterrevolutionaries.

In an interview with Bishop Wang Chongyi of Guiyang, Wang sat beside me and emotionally recounted how during the first few decades of the PRC he witnessed personally the imprisonment, torture, and executions of several of his fellow priests. "There are martyrs who were buried alive, beaten, or starved to death under the Communists—saints whose sufferings will remain forgotten. The Chinese authorities have erased them; only God knows the whole story. But I saw it."

Like the persecuted Christians of the early Church, Chinese Catholics went "underground," forced to pray alone without the sacraments, and, as Bishop Wang said, "No one then really knew who was Catholic. After the churches reopened we sometimes knew for the first time that our neighbors had all along been praying the rosary in the house next door."

During Mao's Land Reform Law of 1951, Chinese authorities confiscated temples, monasteries, and churches. The Catholic churches in Beijing serve as an apt example of the period. West Church was used as a warehouse for Tongren Tang Herbs; St. Michael's Church was made into a primary school and restaurant; and according to the Beijing diocese's records, the famous North Cathedral was used during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) "for other purposes."2 By the 1950s, several books were published exposing the persecution of Catholics in China: Gretta Palmer, God's Underground in Asia (1953); Father Harold Rigney, SVD, Four Years in a Red Hell (1956); Father Jean Monsterleet, SJ, Martyrs in China (1956); Sr. Mary Victoria, Nun in Red China (1953); and Paul Sih, Decision for China: Communism or Christianity (1959). Churches were closed or confiscated, the faithful were compelled to hide, and China had become a new "coliseum" of martyrs.


On December 13, 1950, China launched the Three-Self Movement, which, as one Catholic priest expressed in a Chinese newspaper article, "determined to sever all relations to imperialism, to do all we can to reform ourselves, to establish a new Church that shall be independent in its administration, its resources, and its apostolate."3 What this "independence" really meant for Chinese Catholics was the forced rupture between themselves and the central authority of their faith. As Beatrice Leung and William Liu remark, "Independence from the Vatican for the faithful literally means a rejection of their faith."4

This led to a conflict between China's new government and the Vatican, and it led to conflicts within the Chinese Church regarding whether to follow the government "and survive" or "remain loyal to Rome" and go underground.

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) responded to the Three-Self Movement with an encyclical Ad Sinarum Gentem ("To the People of China"), in which he affirmed unequivocally: will be entirely essential that your Christian community, if it desires to form a part of our society divinely founded by Our Redeemer, be subject in all things to the sovereign pontiff, the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and that it must be most clearly united to Him as far as concerns religious faith.5

Chinese Catholics were placed in the difficult position of choosing between country and faith; most chose to retain the faith, though they felt compelled to do so in private, and without recourse to the sacraments.

Knowing that Catholics needed a pope, but still not understanding its theological implications, the Communist government approached the Vincentian prelate Archbishop Zhou Jishi, CM (1892-1972) and asked him if he wanted to be the "Pope of China." When a party official approached Bishop Zhou with the proposition, he responded, "I should prefer to be pope of the whole world," demonstrating his understanding of the position, and his refusal to acquiesce.6 Zhou was then accused of opposing the "reform of the Church" and imprisoned. The most famous bishop to be arrested in China is Cardinal Kung Pinmei (1901-2000), who spent 30 years in prison for his loyalty to the pope.

The rupture between the Church in China and the Vatican deepened on July 15, 1957, when a party-sanctioned National Assembly of Chinese Catholics was established with 241 delegates, including bishops and priests. It was during this meeting that the Catholic Patriotic Association was created. Soon after this new association was established writings inside and outside of China began to refer to an "underground Church" in China, consisting of Catholics who refused to affiliate with the clergy and churches under the auspices of the Catholic Patriotic Association.

Just as accounts of the Catholic martyrs of China sustained the faith of Catholics during the Maoist era, stories of the sufferings endured by native clergy who refused to affiliate with the "national" church fortified the resolve of many Chinese who remained underground.

I met with one underground bishop who recalled his own experiences as an underground priest during and after the Cultural Revolution. Bishop Hu Daguo (b. 1920) was ordained a priest in 1950, only one year after the founding of the PRC, and like most priests of that time, he viewed Communism as an impossible partner in the mission of the Church. He refused to cooperate or collaborate with the party, and continued his ministry outside of the officially sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association. After the Cultural Revolution had been inaugurated by Chairman Mao in 1966, 300 of Mao's Red Guards detained Father Hu, placed a white dunce cap on his head, and beat him while screaming denunciations. Still refusing to apostatize, Hu Daguo was arrested and placed in prison for "re-education."

Bishop Hu's experiences in prison were characteristic of what other Catholic priests encountered who ignored commands to apostatize or sever loyalties to Rome. During Hu's 20 years in prison he was subjected to five methods of "persuasion." First, he was denied access to the sacraments; he could not receive Holy Communion or go to confession. He was also not allowed to possess religious objects, and had to use his fingers to pray his daily rosary. Second, Hu was forced to attend regular classes on Marxist thought, which emphasized atheism and materialism. Third, the Communist authorities introduced a beautiful girl to Hu, pressuring him to marry her; he refused to betray his priestly vow of celibacy. Fourth, his body was tortured so that today he cannot stand upright, and he can barely walk from the beatings to his legs. In fact, Bishop Hu is mostly bedridden, and although he is no longer in prison, he is still harassed by local authorities. As we talked, he informed me that he was not afraid, and that we could speak freely; he was accustomed to persecution.

Bishop Hu is an underground bishop in the Roman Catholic Church; his episcopal ring was given to him by Pope John Paul II (1920-2005). His situation is typical of underground priests and bishops in China; he lives and celebrates Holy Mass with his fellow bishops, that is, the "aboveground" bishops of Guiyang. Bishop Hu's room is downstairs from the other bishops' rooms, at the cathedral seminary sanctioned by the government-approved Catholic Patriotic Association. He is an example of how complex the situation is with the Church in China; the line between the underground and aboveground communities in China is becoming less distinct as the two groups begin a process of reconciliation, though this process remains slow and painful.


As I walked along a remote village road in Guizhou province with the newly-ordained Father Liu Xianjun, we discussed the state of the so-called "underground" and "aboveground" communities in China. We were walking to the tomb of several martyr saints who were beheaded in 1861, a site now forbidden to Catholics. We were just "on a casual walk." Father Liu lamented the preponderance of books, articles, and web pages referring to the "two Churches" in China, one that is "in communion with Rome" and another that is "schismatic." When people discuss the community that is "in communion" they most often only mean the underground community, and they assume that the aboveground community is "not Catholic" because of its affiliation with the Catholic Patriotic Association.

Groups such as the Cardinal Kung Foundation and Free the Fathers have worked diligently and admirably to alert Catholics throughout the world about the distresses endured by the Church in China, and they have noted how the Patriotic Association has in the past asserted itself against the supreme authority of the Pope.7 Given the history of persecution suffered by those Catholics who remained underground to demonstrate their loyalty to the Pope, it is understandable why organizations such as the Cardinal Kung Foundation and Free the Fathers continue to offer important prayer and financial support for the underground.

The present situation has become quite complex, however, as underground and aboveground bishops, priests, and religious often live under the same roof, and maintain deeply collaborative alliances to further the Church's status and freedom in China. Indeed, China's clergy —underground and aboveground—are eager to make known the present state of the Church in China.

The first issue that China's clergy would like cleared up is that the Patriotic Catholic Association is not a "parallel" or "puppet" Church; it is not a "church" at all, but an administrative association established by the Chinese government to oversee the Catholic community in China. In actuality it monitors both the underground and aboveground groups. The "open" churches in China today often display photographs of the current Pope, include the Pope's name in the canon of the Mass, and discuss his teachings in their church bulletins.

When I asked "open" priests whether they considered themselves to be in communion with the Pope I unanimously heard that they were wholeheartedly obedient to the Holy Father, and that they bitterly resent the current restraints they are under. I asked several priests and bishops what they would like conveyed to the Holy Father, and they all asserted: We love him, we are in communion with him, and we remain united with him in prayer, even if we are cut off from being with him in person. This is not to say that their status is today normalized, nor is it to say that there are no remaining clergy in the Patriotic Association who remain obstinately independent of Rome.

As Leung and Liu have written, the clergy and faithful mentioned above are among those who have maintained their sense of loyalty to the Holy See, while ostensibly cooperating with the Patriotic Catholic Association in order to preserve church properties and provide the sacraments to the growing numbers of Catholic faithful.8 In China today, the "open" Catholic community views the Patriotic Catholic Association as an unwelcome overseer; its members appear determined to function as authentic Catholics from within the sanctioned community, and there are signs that the Patriotic Association is presently losing its influence in China.

Two examples will illustrate the waning authority of the Patriotic Catholic Association in China today. When I first arrived at the cathedral at Guiyang, I was greeted by the rector, Father Ma Dejiang, who is also the current chairman of the Patriotic Catholic Association of Guizhou province. Father Ma, who also lives in the same building as underground Bishop Hu Daguo, is required to attend local party meetings and participate in promoting patriotism in the Catholic community. Father Liu Xianjun later informed me that Father Ma had been installed in the post in order to regain some of the former freedom the Church enjoyed in China before the founding of the PRC. Essentially, Father Ma cooperates with the Patriotic Catholic Association to function as a cushion between the authorities and the bishops in charge of the diocese. Father Ma's loyalty was unquestionably with Rome, a point conceded even by the local underground community.

The situation in Kunming, Yunnan, is more complicated. I met there with Sr. Xian Yanxia, who lives in a community of nuns attached to the cathedral; the bishop, Ma Yinglin, was elected without the Pope's approval, and is one of the few bishops in China today without the full support of the Vatican. Sr. Xian told me that Bishop Ma is distressed by the fact that he is not yet in open communion with Pope Benedict XVI, and that he is actively seeking the Pope's support. This was evident, as I saw more photographs of the Pope in his cathedral than any other I visited in China, and the weekly bulletin included essays discussing the Holy Father's recent homilies on St. Paul. Beside the Kunming cathedral, seminary, and convent was a prominent door with a large white sign designating the main office for the Patriotic Catholic Association. Sr. Xian took me into the "office," which consisted of an entirely empty room. The Patriotic Catholic Association in Yunnan province is little more than a facade.

When I arrived at the cathedral in Wuhan, Hubei, I was informed that no one had been selected to replace the previous bishop, Dong Guangqing (1917-2007), who had recently died of cancer. The diocese was still awaiting an agreement between the Chinese authorities and the Vatican on a mutually agreeable candidate; the fact that the Chinese authorities are even consulting the Holy See is a welcome development for local Catholics. Bishop Dong was one of the first two priests to be consecrated bishop in 1958 without the Pope's approval, and he remained out of communion with the Vatican until he reconciled with Pope John Paul II in 1984. Father Peng Xin, one of the priests in residence at Wuhan's restored cathedral, informed me that Bishop Dong actively collaborated with the underground community, and in fact shared his accommodations with underground clergy. Not only do the underground and aboveground communities collaborate in Hubei, but the chairman of the Patriotic Catholic Association is a priest who operates in the same capacity as Father Ma Dejiang of Guiyang.

As priests begin to oversee the "offices" of the Patriotic Catholic Association, the association loses its ideological influence over the Church in China. And as bishops are more and more in open communion with the Roman Pontiff, underground Catholics are seen more and more openly attending Mass at "open" churches. I routinely asked bishops whether they were in open communion with the Pope, and all but one (Bishop Ma Yinglin) told me that the episcopal rings they were wearing were gifts from the Pope. During an interview I had with Brother Marcel Zhang, the last Trappist survivor of the 1947 Communist attack on his monastery north of Beijing, he noted that while he was previously a member of the underground community, he presently attends Masses at the state-sanctioned North Church, not too far from the Forbidden City.

Several parishioners at West Church, where I attended Mass while living in Beijing, navigate freely between the underground and aboveground communities. And some members of the "underground Church" I met while visiting Matteo Ricci, SJ's tomb in Beijing, told me that they attend Mass at an "open" church in Beijing. I later ran into the same people at a Mass for the dead celebrated by Bishop Li Shan, current bishop of the Diocese of Beijing. But even though the line between the underground and aboveground communities is obscured, divisions persist, and a realistic view of China's Church today is needed.


Despite the great strides recently made in the Church's freedom in China, there remain repressive vestiges of the government's less tolerant era. The most commonly sold book today on the Catholic Church in China is Yan Kejia's Zhongguo Tianzhujiao (Chinese Catholicism), in which the author writes of China's "liberation" from "imperialist" Rome, heralded as a positive step in the Church's history:

When the People's Republic of China was established on October 1, 1949, a new era of government was inaugurated. China finally rid itself of imperialist meddling and feudalist and capitalist oppression. For the first time since 1840 [the Opium War], China enjoyed peace.9

Yan also accuses Pope Pius XII's encyclical Ad Sinarum Gentem of "resisting socialist construction and land reform," suggesting that Rome was the enemy of China's material and political growth.10 The official rhetoric allowed by the Patriotic Catholic Association headquarters in Beijing affirms this party line, that Rome is an imperialist, foreign power that cannot be allowed political sway over China's Catholics. It is largely due to this rhetoric that the two communities in China have not entirely grown together. I am myself often suspicious of the optimistic reports one hears from the Patriotic Association; official documents in China regarding religious freedom are notoriously contrived.

While books such as Yan's are still widely sold in China —Yan's is the most read and sold Catholic work to date—an increasing number of devotional books and less biased academic studies are beginning to appear in bookstores. And while the Dalai Lama's official web page is presently blocked in China, the Pope's recent "Letter to Chinese Catholics" is openly available. Father Pang Wenxian, pastor of Beijing's West Church, informed me that contrary to what is believed outside of China, the Pope's letter was widely read by China's clergy and faithful, both underground and "aboveground." The Pope's letter is informed and candid regarding persistent problems, but it is also filled with optimism. The "Letter to Chinese Catholics" emphatically recounts the Church's constant belief in the necessary communion of bishops with the Holy See in order to be authentically Catholic, but it also admits that there remain very few Chinese bishops left who are not under papal mandate:

Finally, there are certain bishops—a very small number of them —who have been ordained without the pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not yet obtained the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly ordained bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected.11

Those very few bishops still without the Pope's recognition do not, for the most part, enjoy the support of the local clergy and faithful of their respective dioceses. It will, perhaps, only take a single generation before all China's priests and bishops are fully unified with the See of Peter.

In a 1993 article, Father Jean Char-bonnier, MEP wrote that the "cleft" between the underground and aboveground communities "is a deep one," and also states that, "At certain points of especially acute antagonism, underground and patriotic Catholics ostracize each other, even refusing to speak to or greet each other."12

This situation is improving, though there are some areas wherein the antagonisms remain divisive. As I was about to leave Bishop Hu's tiny room at Guiyang's beautiful cathedral complex, he told me that as long as Communism remains China's official ideology the Church will suffer, but even he admitted that the situation in China's Catholic Church has improved in recent years. I asked underground Bishop Hu to bless Father Liu and me before we left. The crippled bishop kissed his tattered, purple stole, placed it around his neck, and blessed Father and me as we knelt. When he was finished, Bishop Hu asked aboveground Father Liu to bless him. The old bishop knelt as Father Liu stood to administer his priestly blessing. They smiled, bid each other goodnight, and we departed. ?

ANTHONY E. CLARK, an assistant professor of Asian history at the University of Alabama, spent four months in China last year.

1 Mao Zedong, "Strike Surely, Accurately, and Relentlessly in Suppressing Counter-Revolutionaries," (December 1950-September 1951), Selected Works of Mao-Tse-tung, vol. V (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1977), 53.

2 Church of Xi Shi Ku (Beijing: Beijing Catholic Diocese, 2004), 6.

3 Father Wang Lianzuo, in Jiefang ribao (Liberation Daily paper), Shanghai, December 16, 1950.

4 Beatrice Leung and William Liu, The Chinese Catholic Church in Conflict: 1949-2001 (Boca Raton: Universal Publishers, 2004), 85.

5 Pope Pius XII, Ad Sinarum Gentem, 11.

6 In Jean Monsterleet, SJ, Martyrs of China (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956), 46.

7 didyouknow/DidYouKnow.htm (accessed 25 January 2009).

8 Leung and Liu, 93-94.

9 Yan Kejia, Zhongguo Tianzhujiao

(Beijing: Wuzhou chuanbo, 2004), 75.

10 Ibid., 82-83.

11 Pope Benedict XVI, "Letter to Chinese Catholics," 8.

12 Father Jean Charbonnier, MEP, "The 'Underground' Church," in The Catholic Church in Modern China, Edmond Tang and Jean-Paul Wiest, eds. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1993), 65.



VATICAN CITY, 2 APR 2009 ( VIS ) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"From 30 March to 1 April, the commission established by Benedict XVI in 2007 to study questions of importance concerning the life of the Catholic Church in China held its second meeting in the Vatican .

"With intense interest and a deep-felt desire to offer service to the Church in China , the commission examined the main theme of the meeting: the formation of seminarians and of consecrated people, and the permanent formation of priests.

"In association with the bishops of the Church in China - who bear prime responsibility for the ecclesial communities - it will be sought to promote a more adequate human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation of clergy and of consecrated people, who have the important task of acting as faithful disciples of Christ and as members of the Church, and of contributing to the good of their country as exemplary citizens. In this context, the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI's 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics shone out as guidance: 'The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher. ... Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous'.

"The participants, drawing also on their own sometimes-harsh experiences, highlighted complex problems of the current ecclesial situation in China, problems deriving not just from internal difficulties of the Church, but also from the uneasy relations with the civil authorities. In this context, news of the re-arrest of Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding was greeted with profound anguish. Situations of this kind create obstacles to that constructive dialogue with the competent authorities which, as is known, the Holy Father in his above-mentioned Letter expressed the hope might be pursued. This is not, unfortunately, an isolated case. Other ecclesiastics are also deprived of their freedom and subject to undue pressures and limitations in their pastoral activities. To all of them the participants wish to send assurances of fraternal closeness and constant prayers in this time of Lent, illuminated by the Paschal Mystery.

"The meeting concluded with an audience with the Holy Father who, as Peter's Successor, perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of the episcopate, underlined the importance of helping Catholics in China to tell others of the beauty and reasonableness of Christian faith, and to present it as the proposal offering the best answers from an intellectual and existential standpoint. The Pope also thanked those present for their commitment in the field of formation, and encouraged them to continue their service for the good of the Church in China ".


China's Seven Sorrows
Interview With Mark Miravalle

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2007 ( Violations of human rights and religious freedom continue to be widespread in China, says the author of a book on the Asian country.

Mark Miravalle, a professor of theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, traveled to China last summer and saw firsthand the daily struggles of the people and the faithful in the country.

In this interview with ZENIT, he talks about his book "The Seven Sorrows of China" (Queenship Publications), and some of the testimonies from underground Church clergy, religious and laity, as well as a confidential interview with an underground bishop.

Q: What led you to visit China and write this book on the situation there?

Miravalle: I went to China with the sole intention of helping friends there who were taking in terminally ill abandoned orphans and caring for them in a Mother Teresa-type manner.

Each day instead brought with it an encounter with the horrific violations of human dignity and religious freedom that have been significantly neglected in the secular media's recent portrayal of a "new democratic and open" China. I found the opposite to be the case.

Women are being forced to have abortions by the population police in every province. Bishops and priests who refuse to cooperate with the government-run Chinese patriotic church are oftentimes hounded down, arrested, imprisoned and sometimes tortured.

Underground seminaries are at times no more than an abandoned building without electricity or heat. Religious and human-rights violations are ubiquitous.

Q: What are the seven sorrows of China that you refer to in the title of your book?

Miravalle: The seven sorrows represent seven categories or concrete cases of oppression presently being experienced by the Chinese people. For example, one sorrow conveys the account of a woman I met in a secret refugee house for pregnant women who wanted to have their babies in spite of government prohibitions. She had to flee the house in her hospital gown and rush into a taxi held by a Catholic religious sister in order to save her baby from abortion.

Another sorrow refers to an underground bishop who risked his life to give an interview so that the West could know the real story about religious persecution in China. Still another sorrow tells of a small Catholic village that, through Catholic solidarity Chinese-style, are having large families and public Catholic liturgies in spite of the one-child policy and government opposition to unsanctioned public religious gatherings.

Love of our Blessed Mother was so frequently referred to by members of the underground Church. I could not help but think of how her heart, pierced seven times historically because of the innocent suffering of her divine Son, continues to be pierced mystically as she observes the unjust suffering of the noble Chinese people. She sees Jesus in each innocent Chinese person tortured, abused, aborted. So should we.

Q: What about the fact that Beijing has been awarded the 2008 Olympics? Isn't the Chinese government trying to convince the West that it is more open and democratic?

Miravalle: This is precisely the question I asked the underground bishop I was able to interview.

We met secretly in an impoverished family dwelling near his cathedral, as he had numerous police watching the cathedral. His answer was, "The Chinese government is like the fox that goes up to the chicken and says, 'Happy New Year,' and then devours the chicken. We are not free to practice our Catholic faith. I have been imprisoned for a total of 20 years, where I have experienced hard labor, and witnessed the torture and killing of priests and laity."

When I suggested that perhaps it would be imprudent to include the reference to 20 years in prison for fear that it would break his anonymity, he said there would be no problem including this fact since all underground bishops have spent approximately 20 years in prison for refusing to compromise their Catholic faith and their loyalty to the Holy Father.

Q: Did the underground bishop have any comment on Benedict XVI's recent letter to the Church in China?

Miravalle: Yes, the bishop had received a copy of the letter just a few days before our interview. The Chinese government blocked all Web sites, including the Vatican Web site, that posted the Holy Father's letter, but the underground Church has its information networks.

The bishop praised Benedict XVI's letter for its wisdom and prudence. In fact, my interview with the bishop was interrupted 10 minutes after it began, because regional police came to the cathedral searching for the bishop. The people at the house were afraid they were taking the bishop back to prison.

A half-hour later, the bishop returned to our clandestine meeting place, and told me the police had come to warn him not to say anything publicly about the Pope's letter. The bishop then smiled and commented how the inevitable could not be stopped.

Q: What about the government's one-child policy? How is this being enforced?

Miravalle: I received testimonies from women who had gone to the hospital nine months pregnant and in labor, but without the government's certificate allowing for birth. After consultation with the population police, a doctor or nurse would re-enter the room with a needle and inject a substance into the abdomen of the woman, which would instantaneously kill the unborn child.

Other married couples would return home from the hospital with their second child and find their home burned to the ground. Still others would be forced to pay high fines or return to homes where everything was removed, including windows and doors, except for the kitchen table.

Does this sound like a new, democratic, religion-respecting government? What if any of our Western families received this type of treatment for trying to bring a beautiful new baby into the world?

Just last week, another underground bishop died in prison and his body was cremated six hours later in the middle of the night. Was there something to hide? What if this happened to one of our bishops in the West?

Q: Did you see any signs of hope for the Church in China during your visit?

Miravalle: Yes. In a few remarkable villages within provinces known for their heroic stands of faith and martyrdom for our Catholic faith under untold persecution, many families had multiple children and public Masses and Marian processions.

I flew to one particular village and interviewed the parish priest, asking how this was possible in light of Beijing's one-child policy. He answered, "Here, we are united. The priests would die for the bishop, and people would die and have died for their bishop and priests, and the bishop is completely loyal to the Holy Father. We are so united that they would have to wipe us all out, and they will not do that now."

I asked the parish priest and religious sister translating for us, what makes this village different. They responded: "We rely on the Eucharist, Our Lady, and the blood and prayers of the martyrs before us. Here we are Catholic. If you do not follow the Holy Father, then you are not Catholic."

Q: What can the Church in the West do to help the Church in China?

Miravalle: Our hearts should feel pierced as we hear of the daily plight of our Chinese Catholic brothers and sisters. This should lead to committed daily prayer for the Church and the people of China.

I also asked the underground bishop this question. He said, "Pray, pray for the Chinese Church. Finances can help, but most of all, pray."

The bishop added that Communism is not the only evil facing his people.

He shared: "In the last few years, my people are being affected with a secular, worldly idea of happiness, that they can find their ultimate happiness in this life. They have lost their desire for prayer and sacrifice. This is an even greater danger than the Communist government."

The bishop then exhorted, "Pray to Our Lady, Maria! She is the remedy for the situation in China. It is like the battle in the Book of Revelation, between the woman and the dragon. It is first a spiritual, cosmic battle. Pray to Our Lady for China."


Welcome to China: Patriotic Church to Pope

Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Liu Bainian, says that he hopes to see the pope celebrating Mass in Beijing one day and has sent a greeting to the pontiff praying for "the grace to welcome him here among us".

The International Herald Tribune reports that Mr Bainian made the comments in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica in which he praised Benedict's recent letter to China's Catholics as "positive."

"I strongly hope to be able to see the pope one day here in Beijing to celebrate Mass for us Chinese," Liu was quoted as saying.

He said he wanted, through the interview, to send the pope a special greeting. "Let him know that we pray for him always and may the Lord give us the grace to welcome him here among us."

Liu praised Benedict's letter, saying there was a "big positive difference" compared with the Vatican's previous positions.

"Every opposition to socialism disappeared. We weren't accused of schism. It marked the first time that, according to the pope, Chinese people could feel it was possible to be Catholic and love their own country."

He expressed optimism that a solution could be found to the contentious issue of appointing bishops.

"The problem can be resolved. It will be resolved, I hope soon," he was quoted as saying.

At the same time, however, Liu insisted that religion could never be used to interfere in China's internal affairs.

"Beijing will never accept what the church did in Poland," he said, referring to Pope John Paul II's support for the Solidarity movement that helped topple communism in his homeland.

He explained Beijing's relationship with the Vatican by recalling China's bitter experience with foreign colonisers and missionaries, but stressed that Chinese Catholics always recognised the sole authority of the pope as far as religion was concerned.

Pope Benedict was also asked about the comments as he left a church in Auronzo di Cadore, in northern Italy, where he was meeting with clergy from the region.

"I can't speak at this time," Benedict said, according to the ANSA and Apcom news agencies. "It's a bit complicated."

Zen clarifies confusion

Meanwhile, Catholic World News reports that Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has warned against confusion in reactions to the pope's message to the Church in China.

He also directly criticised statements by a noted Catholic Sinologist, Fr Jerooom Heyndrickx, who said that the Pope's main objective was to promote union between the "official" Church recognised by the government and the "underground" Church loyal to the Holy See.

In statements released earlier this month, Fr Heyndrickx, the Belgian head of the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation at Leuven's Catholic University, said that the pope had encouraged bishops of the underground Church to join with "official" bishops in concelebrating Mass.

Cardinal Zen stressed that the pope encouraged concelebration only with those bishops who had regularised their status with the Holy See.

Similarly, the cardinal said that it was wrong to suggest that the pope wanted all "underground" bishops to register with the government.


China bishops, leaders positive on papal letter

Bishops and priests from both the "underground" and "official" sections of the Church in China have expressed their satisfaction with Pope Benedict's letter with one government-backed bishop saying the documents provides guidelines to "move forward".

UCA News reports that some Catholic Church leaders in China who have read the pope's letter to mainland Catholics say they feel positive about it and are willing to heed the pontiff's call for unity in the China church.

Nuns and members of the Catholic hierarchy in China shared told UCA News that they had already read the 50-page Chinese version of the papal letter several times.

In some places in China's Hebei province, thousands of copies have been printed.

"Underground" Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar and a few other church leaders told UCA News they are grateful to the pope for his concerns about the China church.

Bishop Wei, based in Heilongjiang province, northeastern China, noted that the letter provides practical guidelines for church life and evangelisation in China, and gives directions for the China church to move forward.

On July 3, the bishop was asked to meet provincial religious affairs officials about the papal letter, UCA News learned.

An underground priest from Baoding Diocese, Hebei province, agreed the letter is significant. "It is time for Rome to say something," to give a clear and definite stance, he said, which is "to be friendly to those whose stance is opposite to yours."

By revoking all previously granted faculties and directives designed to address particular necessities, he continued, the letter urges the China Church to gradually return to the universal church.

"Certain people may not accept or understand it," he said, but he thinks every Catholic should, in obedience, "accept the document unconditionally" as this is the only responsible attitude toward the future of the church here.

Bishop Wei said he completely agrees with the pope, especially on the revocation of past faculties and directives given the changed situation.

The Holy See had previously granted special faculties that effectively allowed underground bishops to ordain other bishops and to ordain priests without formal theological education. It also urged Catholics to avoid receiving sacraments from bishops or priests who belonged to the Catholic Patriotic Association, a government-approved structure to administer the "open" church in China.

Some underground clergy around China told UCA News they would gather priests and laypeople together to study the letter carefully.

One of them said he wants to ask all clergy from the open and underground communities to make their stance over the letter clear in order to work out a plan.

An open church lay leader in central China, a scholar, thinks it would not be too difficult for open church clergy to accept the document. However, how to put its recommendations into practice is crucial, he said.

Meanwhile, many Catholics UCA News contacted say they need time to digest the lengthy and theological letter, and to consider its impact.

A young laywoman in Beijing said there are certain points she does not understand in the letter, but that this could be due to her inadequate knowledge of the church and its situation as a whole.

Father John Baptist Zhang Shijiang, director of Faith Press in Hebei, said the Catholic communities in China need time to read and consider the letter. He noted that the pope wrote from the viewpoints of spirituality, theology, ecclesiology and pastoral care. Church people also need to study how Chinese society at large regards the letter, he added.

A few young priests from both open and underground communities, who had studied abroad, expressed concern over the letter's impact on China-Vatican relations. They said they were not sure how the government would react to it, especially as both sides seem unwilling to compromise on the issue of bishops' appointments.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong says mistakes have been made in Chinese translations of both Pope Benedict's letter and the Explanatory Note accompanying the letter.


The Pope, China and Church Unity
Interview With Religious Freedom Expert

ROME, JULY 2, 2007 ( The reception of Benedict XVI's letter to Chinese Catholics will say as much about the status of the Church there as the letter itself, says an expert on China-Vatican relations.

In this interview with ZENIT, Raphaela Schmid spoke of the Pope's letter, what it means for the Church in China and for the Chinese government.

Schmid, director of the Becket Institute for Religious Liberty, recently wrote and directed the TV documentary "God in China. The Struggle for Religious Freedom."

Q: What prompted Benedict XVI to write the letter to China in the first place?

Schmid: The prime mover behind the letter was Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun: Since his elevation by Benedict XVI to the rank of cardinal, he has been a tireless advocate for Chinese Catholics before the Roman Curia.

When Beijing illegally ordained bishops in 2006, after a period of diplomatic rapprochement, the Vatican was caught off guard and Cardinal Zen felt that there had to be a reconsideration and clear restatement of China policy in order not to be wrong-footed again.

So this is why a meeting was held in January 2007 in Rome to discuss matters and out of this discussion the Pope's letter came.

Q: What is the most important element of the letter?

Schmid: The most significant thing about this letter is that it exists at all -- that there is a letter to Chinese Catholics from the Pope. And it will serve as a test case for the much-trumpeted new openness toward Rome of the official Church.

It is all very well for reconciled bishops -- 90% of the illegitimately ordained bishops in China have subsequently reconciled with Rome -- to encourage the faithful to pray for the Pope at Sunday Mass. But when the Holy Father writes an actual letter to them, what will they do?

Distribute it to the faithful and take it as a fundamental reference point for the future -- or ignore it and carry on as if it had never been written?

To be sure, the reception of this letter will say as much as the text itself about the current situation of the Church in China.

Q: Is there any indication of how the letter been received so far?

Schmid: Already, before the letter had appeared, government officials had summoned Catholic open Church bishops to a meeting in order to coordinate the response -- which appears to be: do nothing.

News reports today indicate that the letter was not mentioned at open Church Sunday Masses and the vice chairman of the Patriotic Association has indicated that there are no plans to distribute the letter.

He did, however, state that people were free to download it from the Internet if they wanted. And this seems to be happening: I've been in contact with underground Catholics who have already read it.

There is a strong grassroots movement in the open Church community in favor of communion with Rome, even to the extent that the open Church auxiliary bishop of Shanghai could admit: "Without mandate from Rome, the people will not accept a bishop."

I imagine that independent of the directives of the Church hierarchy, they are going online too.

It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the Chinese government will try to restrict access: There have been some reports that Catholic Web sites based in China had originally been allowed to upload the letter but were subsequently forced to take it down.

Q: Does the Pope's letter represent a dramatic change in Vatican policy? What exactly has the letter changed?

Schmid: There has been some confusion on this matter in the initial press reactions.

The letter revokes the special faculties granted in 1981 through a letter of Cardinal Agnelo Rossi, the then prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

At that time the Holy See found it impossible to directly provide legitimate bishops loyal to the Holy See and therefore granted the loyal bishops within China the "very special faculties" to ordain bishops without previously informing the Holy See, because of the danger incurred in communicating with Rome.

Clearly in an age of e-mail and cell phones, communication with Rome no longer presents an insurmountable problem, and so these special faculties are no longer necessary.

The revocation of these faculties is not the same as the revocation of the Tomko points of 1988, which have been superseded by this letter. As the letter explicitly says, the fundamental principles remain the same: Illegitimate ordination still incurs excommunication "latae sententiae" according to canon 1382.

Bishops appointed by, or reconciled with, Rome are still fully valid and legitimate.

Bishops appointed without papal mandate and not reconciled with Rome are still illegitimate: They administer the sacraments validly, but not legitimately.

As has always been the case, Catholics may receive sacraments from them where they have no other option, just as they can from valid yet illegitimate Greek Orthodox clergy.

Q: Does the letter criticize or condemn anyone?

Schmid: In the letter, Benedict XVI shows extraordinary sympathy and understanding for difficult situations of individual priests or bishops -- and that the lack of religious freedom in China is a mitigating factor in the decision-making process. So there are no blanket condemnations or criticism.

But, at the same time, the Pope is tough on the specific institutions such as the bishops' conference of the open Church which "cannot be recognized by the Holy See" because of its exclusion of underground bishops and inclusion of bishops not recognized by the Holy See, as well as the Catholic Patriotic Association whose statutes are "incompatible with Church doctrine."

Q: What is the Catholic Patriotic Association?

Schmid: The Patriotic Association is not the same as the open or official Church, although there is a good deal of overlap between the two; the Pope refers to it as an "external entity" which sometimes "interferes" in the running of the official Church.

The Patriotic Association is a collective that was set up by the government in 1957, with the stated purpose of implementing "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management, and democratic administration of the Church."

These are the principles that the Pope's letter unequivocally calls "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."

Q: Are Catholics in China required to join the Catholic Patriotic Association?

Schmid: In the past, priests and bishops were required to join this organization if they wished to practice their faith in the open and with government approval.

This is no longer the case everywhere: Bishop Lucas Li of Fenxiang, for example, has received government approval without being a member of the Patriotic Association.

But still enormous pressure is sometimes brought to bear on bishops and clerics to join the Patriotic Association: In 2001, Bishop Li and his secretary were arrested by the police and disappeared for about a month, while 12 priests of his diocese were detained and forced to attend re-education courses in order to force them to join the Patriotic Association.

The campaign was unsuccessful, but the episode shows the enduring power of the Patriotic Association.

One of the reasons for this power is money: The Religious Affairs Bureau and the Patriotic Association are in charge of confiscated Church properties and investments across the country.

According to Anthony Lam of the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, the total value of confiscated properties and goods amounts to at least 130 billion Yuan, that is about $17 billion. Only a fraction of the income of these properties is redirected to the government-approved official Church.

Q: The document does not speak of a "patriotic" or "official Church," nor does it mention an "underground Church" -- what is the significance of this?

Schmid: It is perfectly true that the document does this, and it is not a new departure. Rome has always avoided speaking of schism -- of the "official" or "patriotic" Church in China having split off from the Roman Catholic Church.

The facts on the ground, however, had made it necessary to distinguish between two groups of Catholics -- those whose collaboration with the government gained them the privilege of open exercise of their religion -- though at the cost of accepting illegitimate bishops -- and those whose refusal to compromise resulted in them being driven underground.

Ultimately, however, the future of this distinction depends on the Chinese government and the advancement of religious freedom in China.


Beijing Suppresses Pope's China Letter
"Web Sites Told to Remove Full Text"

HONG KONG, JULY 2, 2007 ( Here is a news report published today by the Union of Asian Catholic News on China's suppression of Benedict XVI's letter written to the Catholics in that country.

* * *

Mainland Catholic Websites Told To Remove Full Text Of Papal Letter

HONG KONG (UCAN) -- Some Catholic websites in mainland China that uploaded Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Catholics in the mainland shortly after it was released were ordered hours later to remove it.

UCA News observed that a few hours after the Vatican issued the letter on June 30 at 6:00 p.m. Beijing time (12:00 noon in Rome), several mainland Catholic websites uploaded the simplified Chinese version of the letter.

However, most of those websites, which usually carry news on the Universal Church, the China Church and the pope, had removed the text by the next day.

A priest in charge of such a website registered with the government told UCA News on July 2 he felt helpless because he strongly believes that "China Church websites should publish the pope's letter."

The priest, who asked not to be named, said some government officials who came to his office on June 29 asked about the letter but did not explicitly say he could not carry it. The next evening, he uploaded the letter to his site, but he was told on July 1 morning he was not allowed to upload the text.

By July 2, UCA News found five such websites, mostly run by "underground" Catholics, still had the full text, 19,763 Chinese characters, including the footnotes.

"Actually, this is not the first time we were told not to put certain news reports and articles on the Internet, particularly concerning China-Vatican relations and what Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong says," the priest pointed out. He added that since he had no choice, he removed the pope's letter, lest his website face forced closure or other possible troubles.

As Pope Benedict mentioned in the letter, there are "increased opportunities and facilities in communications" in the mainland (No. 18), so the priest said he thinks China's Catholics can get the papal letter through other channels.

The priest also said that forbidding Catholic websites in China from carrying the letter proves what the pope said about governmental interference in religious affairs and that the Church cannot enjoy full religious freedom.

Other popular Catholic websites in China were warned to remove or not upload the letter. Some of them informed their readers on June 29 that the long-awaited papal letter would be released the next evening, and they urged their readers to watch for it and related reports. But since then, such websites have carried Vatican news but not about the papal letter.

A Catholic layman told UCA News on July 2 that after browsing the Internet, very few Catholic websites in mainland seem to have the papal letter, so he concluded that government authorities have acted against the webmasters.

Even so, most mainland Catholic news websites did carry a June 30 news report from China's Foreign Ministry. In it, Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry official, responded to a question about the papal letter.

"We have taken note of the letter released by the Pope. China has always stood for the improvement of China-Vatican relationship and made positive efforts for that. China is willing to continue candid and constructive dialogue with Vatican so as to resolve our differences," Qin said.

He also reiterated China's position that improving China-Vatican ties still has two conditions: the Vatican must sever its so-called diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing all of China, and it shall never interfere in China's internal affairs, including in the name of religion. "We hope the Vatican side takes concrete actions and does not create new barriers," he added.


Vatican Note on Letter to China's Catholics
"Sure Guidance for Pastoral Activity in Years to Come"

JULY 1, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the explanatory note released Saturday by the Vatican with the publication of Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholics in China.

* * *


"Letter to Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China"

By his "Letter to Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China", which bears the date of Pentecost Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI wishes to express his love for and his closeness to the Catholics who live in China. He does so, obviously, as Successor of Peter and Universal Pastor of the Church.

From the text two basic thoughts are clear: on the one hand, the Pope's deep affection for the entire Catholic community in China and, on the other, his passionate fidelity to the great values of the Catholic tradition in the ecclesiological field; hence, a passion for charity and a passion for the truth. The Pope recalls the great ecclesiological principles of the Second Vatican Council and the Catholic tradition, but at the same time takes into consideration particular aspects of the life of the Church in China, setting them in an ample theological perspective.

A - The Church in China in the last fifty years

The Catholic community in China has lived the past fifty years in an intense way, undertaking a difficult and painful journey, which not only has deeply marked it but has also caused it to take on particular characteristics which continue to mark it today.

The Catholic community suffered an initial persecution in the 1950s, which witnessed the expulsion of foreign Bishops and missionaries, the imprisonment of almost all Chinese clerics and the leaders of the various lay movements, the closing of churches and the isolation of the faithful. Then, at the end of the 1950s, various state bodies were established, such as the Office for Religious Affairs and the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, with the aim of directing and "controlling" all religious activity. In 1958 the first two episcopal ordinations without papal mandate took place, initiating a long series of actions which deeply damaged ecclesial communion.

In the decade 1966-1976, the Cultural Revolution, which took place throughout the country, violently affected the Catholic community, striking even those Bishops, priests and lay faithful who had shown themselves more amenable to the new orientations imposed by government authorities.

In the 1980s, with the gestures of openness promoted by Deng Xiaoping, there began a period of religious tolerance with some possibility of movement and dialogue, which led to the reopening of churches, seminaries and religious houses, and to a certain revival of community life. The information coming from communities of the Catholic Church in China confirmed that the blood of the martyrs had once again been the seed of new Christians: the faith had remained alive in the communities; the majority of Catholics had given fervent witness of fidelity to Christ and the Church; families had become the key to the transmission of the faith to their members. The new climate, however, provoked different reactions within the Catholic community.

In this regard, the Pope notes that some Pastors, "not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for clandestine consecration" to ensure a pastoral service to their own communities (No. 8). In fact, as the Holy Father makes clear, "the clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church's life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church's life" (ibid.).

Others, who were especially concerned with the good of the faithful and with an eye to the future "have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate" (ibid.). The Pope, in consideration of the complexity of the situation and being deeply desirous of promoting the re-establishment of full communion, granted many of them "full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction".

Attentively analyzing the situation of the Church in China, Benedict XVI is aware of the fact that the community is suffering internally from a situation of conflict in which both faithful and Pastors are involved. He emphasizes, however, that this painful situation was not brought about by different doctrinal positions but is the result of the "the significant part played by entities that have been imposed as the principal determinants of the life of the Catholic community" (No. 7). These are entities, whose declared purposes -- in particular, the aim of implementing the principles of independence, self-government and self-management of the Church -- are not reconcilable with Catholic doctrine. This interference has given rise to seriously troubling situations. What is more, Bishops and priests have been subjected to considerable surveillance and coercion in the exercise of their pastoral office.

In the 1990s, from many quarters and with increasing frequency, Bishops and priests turned to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Secretariat of State in order to obtain from the Holy See precise instructions as to how they should conduct themselves with regard to some problems of ecclesial life in China. Many asked what attitude should be adopted toward the government and toward state agencies in charge of Church life. Other queries concerned strictly sacramental problems, such as the possibility of concelebrating with Bishops who had been ordained without papal mandate or of receiving the sacraments from priests ordained by these Bishops. Finally, the legitimizing of numerous Bishops who had been illicitly consecrated confused some sectors of the Catholic community.

In addition, the law on registering places of worship and the state requirement of a certificate of membership in the Patriotic Association gave rise to fresh tensions and further questions.

During these years, Pope John Paul II on several occasions addressed messages and appeals to the Church in China, calling all Catholics to unity and reconciliation. The interventions of the Holy Father were well received, creating a desire for unity, but sadly the tensions with the authorities and within the Catholic community did not diminish.

For its part, the Holy See has provided directives regarding the various problems, but the passage of time and the rise of new situations of increasing complexity required a reconsideration of the overall question in order to provide the clearest answer possible to the queries and to issue sure guidance for pastoral activity in years to come.

B - The history of the Papal Letter

The various problems which seem to have most seriously affected the life of the Church in China in recent years were amply and carefully analyzed by a special select Commission made up of some experts on China and members of the Roman Curia who follow the situation of that community. When Pope Benedict XVI decided to call a meeting from 19-20 January 2007 during which various ecclesiastics, including some from China, took part, the aforementioned Commission worked to produce a document aimed at ensuring broad discussion on the various points, gathering practical recommendations made by the participants and proposing some possible theological and pastoral guidelines for the Catholic community in China. His Holiness, who graciously took part in the final session of the meeting, decided, among other things, to address a Letter to the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful.

C - Content of the Letter

"Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you", writes Benedict XVI to the Catholics of China, "I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master Jesus Christ wants from you" (No. 2). The Pope reiterates some fundamental principles of Catholic ecclesiology in order to clarify the more important problems, aware that the light shed by these principles will provide assistance in dealing with the various questions and the more concrete aspects of the life of the Catholic community.

While expressing great joy for the fidelity demonstrated by the faithful in China over the past fifty years, Benedict XVI reaffirms the inestimable value of their sufferings and of the persecution endured for the Gospel, and he directs to all an earnest appeal for unity and reconciliation. Since he is aware of the fact that full reconciliation "cannot be accomplished overnight", he recalls that this path "of reconciliation is supported by the example and the prayer of so many 'witnesses of faith' who have suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China" (No. 6).

In this context, the words of Jesus, "Duc in altum" (Luke 5:4), continue to ring true. This is an expression which invites "us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence". In China, as indeed in the rest of the world, "the Church is called to be a witness of Christ, to look forward with hope, and -- in proclaiming the Gospel -- to measure up to the new challenges that the Chinese people must face" (No. 3). "In your country too" the Pope states, "the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen will be possible to the extent that, with fidelity to the Gospel, in communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter and with the universal Church, you are able to put into practice the signs of love and unity" (ibid.).

In dealing with some of the more urgent problems which emerge from the queries which have reached the Holy See from Bishops and priests, Benedict XVI offers guidance regarding the recognition of ecclesiastics of the clandestine community by the government authorities (cf. No. 7) and he gives much prominence to the subject of the Chinese Episcopate (cf. No. 8), with particular reference to matters surrounding the appointment of Bishops (cf. No. 9). Of special significance are the pastoral directives which the Holy Father gives to the community, which emphasize in the first place the figure and mission of the Bishop in the diocesan community: "nothing without the Bishop". In addition, he provides guidance for Eucharistic concelebration and he encourages the creation of diocesan bodies laid down by canonical norms. He does not fail to give directions for the training of priests and family life.

As for the relationship of the Catholic community to the State, Benedict XVI in a serene and respectful way recalls Catholic doctrine, formulated anew by the Second Vatican Council. He then expresses the sincere hope that the dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese government will make progress so as to be able to reach agreement on the appointment of Bishops, obtain the full exercise of the faith by Catholics as a result of respect for genuine religious freedom and arrive at the normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Beijing Government.

Finally, the Pope revokes all the earlier and more recent faculties and directives of a pastoral nature which had been granted by the Holy See to the Church in China. The changed circumstances of the overall situation of the Church in China and the greater possibilities of communication now enable Catholics to follow the general canonical norms and, where necessary, to have recourse to the Apostolic See. In any event, the doctrinal principles which inspired the above-mentioned faculties and directives now find fresh application in the directives contained in the present Letter (cf. No. 18).

D - Tone and outlook of the Letter

With spiritual concern and using an eminently pastoral language, Benedict XVI addresses the entire Church in China. His intention is not to create situations of harsh confrontation with particular persons or groups: even though he expresses judgments on certain critical situations, he does so with great understanding for the contingent aspects and the persons involved, while upholding the theological principles with great clarity. The Pope wishes to invite the Church to a deeper fidelity to Jesus Christ and he reminds all Chinese Catholics of their mission to be evangelizers in the present specific context of their country. The Holy Father views with respect and deep sympathy the ancient and recent history of the great Chinese people and once again declares himself ready to engage in dialogue with the Chinese authorities in the awareness that normalization of the life of the Church in China presupposes frank, open and constructive dialogue with these authorities. Furthermore, Benedict XVI, like his Predecessor John Paul II before him, is firmly convinced that this normalization will make an incomparable contribution to peace in the world, thus adding an irreplaceable piece to the great mosaic of peaceful coexistence among peoples.


Cardinal Zen on Pope's China Letter
"One Impression and Two Hopes"

HONG KONG, JULY 1, 2007 ( Here is the message published by Cardinal Joseph Zen Zi-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, in response to the publication of Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholics in China.

* * *

The long awaited letter from the Holy Father has finally seen the light of the day. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has addressed a letter to the bishops, priests, religious and faithful in China as he had promised to do last January.

Indeed, it is a historical "first" that the Pope has written a letter to the Catholic community in a particular region. The motive is, as is obvious, that that community has experienced so much tribulation in the last decades, that the Holy Father wants to show special concern for those his children and give them some guidelines in this seemingly crucial moment, so that they might free themselves from their unfortunate predicament.

At the beginning of June the Vatican secretary of state announced that "the Pope's letter has been definitively approved," a rather strange way of saying things: "the Pope's letter approved by the Pope?" The fact, probably, is that even the finished text of the Pope's letter, according to the Vatican way of doing things, would still pass through further checks or even corrections. Obviously, the finally approved letter is the Pope's letter, with his signature.

After a cursory vision of the rather long letter, I would like to share with the media my one impression and two hopes.

The impression. I admire the precious balance achieved by the Holy Father between his passion for the truth and his love for his children. Only an outstanding theologian and a tender father could satisfy at the same time the demands of the truth and the kindness toward people. Blessed be God for having given us such a leader!

On hope. The doctrine painstakingly explained by Benedict XVI, is nothing but the most traditional and universally accepted Catholic principles, belonging to the religious field, with no secret political agenda, even less with an intention of attacking anybody. My hope is that the leaders of our country would read the Pope's letter from this perspective and understand the true unchangeable nature of the Catholic Church.

A second hope. The voice of our bishops and priests in China is often prevented from reaching our leaders; now that the letter of the Pope is in the hands of our leaders, our bishops and priests can thus refer to it directly as a common starting point for dialogue.

The Pope insists that bishops are the leaders of the Church and they are not to be separated from the Roman Pontiff. My hope is that our bishops and priests stand united with the Holy Father. Let our Church in China be truly the Catholic Church recognized and respected by the rest of the world, and let it bring honor and glory to our country on the stage of the universal Church.


Vatican Declaration on Letter to Chinese Catholics
"A Pressing Invitation to Charity, Unity and Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2007 ( Here is the declaration published by the Holy See upon releasing the letter Benedict XVI wrote to the Catholics in China.

* * *

Declaration: Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China

By means of his Letter, which is made public today, Pope Benedict XVI wishes to express his love for the Catholic community in China and his closeness to it.

From the text of the Papal document two basic attitudes are clear: on the one hand, deep spiritual affection for all Catholics in China and cordial esteem for the Chinese people, and, on the other, an earnest appeal to the perennial principles of the Catholic tradition and the Second Vatican Council in the ecclesiological sphere. It is, therefore, a pressing invitation to charity, unity and truth.

The Letter is directed to the Church in China and deals with eminently religious questions, responding to precise queries which have been addressed for some time to the Holy See by Chinese Bishops and priests. It is not, therefore, a political document, nor, much less, an indictment of the government authorities, although it does not ignore the well-known difficulties which the Church in China must daily tackle.

The Holy Father recalls the "original plan" which Christ had for his Church and which he entrusted to the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops. In this light, he takes into consideration various problems of the Church in China which emerged during the past fifty years. From this "plan" he also draws inspiration and formulates guidelines to tackle and resolve, in a spirit of communion and truth, the said problems.

In the Letter, Benedict XVI declares himself fully available and open to a serene and constructive dialogue with the civic authorities in order to find a solution to the various problems concerning the Catholic community, and to reach the desired normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, in the certainty that Catholics, by freely professing their faith and by giving generous witness of life, contribute also, as good citizens, to the good of the Chinese people.

Saturday, 30 June 2007


Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics

"Willingness to Engage in Respectful and Constructive Dialogue"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI wrote to the Catholics in China, signed by the Pope on May 27, the solemnity of Pentecost. The Vatican press office released the letter today.

* * *



1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China: ''We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven ... We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy'' (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).

These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of communion that unites us spiritually.

Purpose of the Letter

2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have manifested ''sometimes at the price of grave sufferings'',[1] since ''it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake'' (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless, some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause for concern.

Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, ''the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history''[2] wants from you.



Globalization, modernity and atheism

3. As I turn my attention towards your People, which has distinguished itself among the other peoples of Asia for the splendour of its ancient civilization, with all its experience of wisdom, philosophy, art and science, I am pleased to note how, especially in recent times, it has also moved decisively towards achieving significant goals of socio-economic progress, attracting the interest of the entire world.

As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II once said, ''The Catholic Church for her part regards with respect this impressive thrust and far-sighted planning, and with discretion offers her own contribution in the promotion and defence of the human person, and of the person's values, spirituality and transcendent vocation. The Church has very much at heart the values and objectives which are of primary importance also to modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the wise management of the phenomenon of globalization''.[3]

The pressure to attain the desired and necessary economic and social development and the search for modernity are accompanied by two different and contrasting phenomena, both of which should nonetheless be evaluated with equal prudence and a positive apostolic spirit. On the one hand, especially among the young, one can detect a growing interest in the spiritual and transcendent dimension of the human person, with a consequent interest in religion, particularly in Christianity. On the other hand, there are signs, in China too, of the tendency towards materialism and hedonism, which are spreading from the big cities to the entire country.[4]

In this context, in which you are called to live and work, I want to remind you of what Pope John Paul II emphasized so strongly and vigorously: the new evangelization demands the proclamation of the Gospel[5] to modern man, with a keen awareness that, just as during the first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during the second in the American continent and in Africa, so during the third millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vibrant Asian continent.[6]

" 'Duc in altum' (Lk 5:4). These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb 13:8)''[7] In China too the Church is called to be a witness of Christ, to look forward with hope, and -- in proclaiming the Gospel -- to measure up to the new challenges that the Chinese People must face.

The word of God helps us, once again, to discover the mysterious and profound meaning of the Church's path in the world. In fact ''the subject of one of the most important visions of the Book of Revelation is [the] Lamb in the act of opening a scroll, previously closed with seven seals that no one had been able to break open. John is even shown in tears, for he finds no one worthy of opening the scroll or reading it (cf. Rev 5:4). History remains indecipherable, incomprehensible. No one can read it. Perhaps John's weeping before the mystery of a history so obscure expresses the Asian Churches' dismay at God's silence in the face of the persecutions to which they were exposed at the time. It is a dismay that can clearly mirror our consternation in the face of the serious difficulties, misunderstandings and hostility that the Church also suffers today in various parts of the world. These are trials that the Church does not of course deserve, just as Jesus himself did not deserve his torture. However, they reveal both the wickedness of man, when he abandons himself to the promptings of evil, and also the superior ordering of events on God's part''.[8]

Today, as in the past, to proclaim the Gospel means to preach and bear witness to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the new Man, conqueror of sin and death. He enables human beings to enter into a new dimension, where mercy and love shown even to enemies can bear witness to the victory of the Cross over all weakness and human wretchedness. In your country too, the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen will be possible to the extent that, with fidelity to the Gospel, in communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter and with the universal Church, you are able to put into practice the signs of love and unity (''even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another ... even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me'' -- Jn 13:34-35; 17:21).

Willingness to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue

4. As universal Pastor of the Church, I wish to manifest sincere gratitude to the Lord for the deeply-felt witness of faithfulness offered by the Chinese Catholic community in truly difficult circumstances. At the same time, I sense the urgent need, as my deep and compelling duty and as an expression of my paternal love, to confirm the faith of Chinese Catholics and favour their unity with the means proper to the Church.

I am also following with particular interest the events of the entire Chinese People, whom I regard with sincere admiration and sentiments of friendship, to the point where I express the hope ''that concrete forms of communication and cooperation between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China may soon be established. Friendship is nourished by contacts, by a sharing in the joy and sadness of different situations, by solidarity and mutual assistance''[9] And pursuing this line of argument, my venerable predecessor added: ''It is no secret that the Holy See, in the name of the whole Catholic Church and, I believe, for the benefit of the whole human family, hopes for the opening of some form of dialogue with the authorities of the People's Republic of China. Once the misunderstandings of the past have been overcome, such a dialogue would make it possible for us to work together for the good of the Chinese People and for peace in the world''.[10]

I realize that the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties. For its part, the Holy See always remains open to negotiations, so necessary if the difficulties of the present time are to be overcome.

This situation of misunderstandings and incomprehension weighs heavily, serving the interests of neither the Chinese authorities nor the Catholic Church in China. As Pope John Paul II stated, recalling what Father Matteo Ricci wrote from Beijing,[11] ''so too today the Catholic Church seeks no privilege from China and its lead- ers, but solely the resumption of dialogue, in order to build a relationship based upon mutual respect and deeper understanding''.[12] Let China rest assured that the Catholic Church sincerely proposes to offer, once again, humble and disinterested service in the areas of her competence, for the good of Chinese Catholics and for the good of all the inhabitants of the country.

As far as relations between the political community and the Church in China are concerned, it is worth calling to mind the enlightening teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which states: ''The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor is she tied to any political system. She is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person''. And the Council continues: ''The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals, though under different titles. Their service will be more efficient and beneficial to all if both institutions develop better cooperation according to the circumstances of place and time''.[13]

Likewise, therefore, the Catholic Church which is in China does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State; rather, her mission is to proclaim Christ to men and women, as the Saviour of the world, basing herself -- in carrying out her proper apostolate -- on the power of God. As I recalled in my Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," ''The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply''.[14]

In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church. The civil authorities are well aware that the Church in her teaching invites the faithful to be good citizens, respectful and active contributors to the common good in their country, but it is likewise clear that she asks the State to guarantee to those same Catholic citizens the full exercise of their faith, with respect for authentic religious freedom.

Communion between particular Churches in the universal Church

5. Beloved Catholic Church in China, you are a small flock present and active within the vastness of an immense People journeying through history. How stirring and encouraging these words of Jesus are for you: ''Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom'' (Lk 12:32)! ''You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world'': therefore ''let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven'' (Mt 5:13, 14, 16).

In the Catholic Church which is in China, the universal Church is present, the Church of Christ, which in the Creed we acknowledge to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, that is to say, the universal community of the Lord's disciples.

As you know, the profound unity which binds together the particular Churches found in China, and which likewise places them in intimate communion with all the other particular Churches throughout the world, has its roots not only in the same faith and in a common Baptism, but above all in the Eucharist and in the episcopate.[15] Likewise, the unity of the episcopate, of which ''the Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation'',[16] continues down the centuries through the apostolic succession and is the foundation of the identity of the Church in every age with the Church built by Christ on Peter and on the other Apostles.[17]

Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop is the visible source and foundation of unity in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry.[18] But in every particular Church, in order that she may be fully Church, there must be present the supreme authority of the Church, that is to say, the episcopal College together with its Head, the Roman Pontiff, and never apart from him. Therefore the ministry of the Successor of Peter belongs to the essence of every particular Church ''from within''.[19] Moreover, the communion of all the particular Churches in the one Catholic Church, and hence the ordered hierarchical communion of all the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, with the Successor of Peter, are a guarantee of the unity of the faith and life of all Catholics. It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope.

No one in the Church is a foreigner, but all are citizens of the same People, members of the same Mystical Body of Christ. The bond of sacramental communion is the Eucharist, guaranteed by the ministry of Bishops and priests.[20]

The whole of the Church which is in China is called to live and to manifest this unity in a richer spirituality of communion, so that, taking account of the complex concrete situations in which the Catholic community finds itself, she may also grow in a harmonious hierarchical communion. Therefore, Pastors and faithful are called to defend and to safeguard what belongs to the doctrine and the tradition of the Church.

Tensions and divisions within the Church: pardon and reconciliation

6. Addressing the whole Church in his Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, stated that an ''important area in which there has to be commitment and planning on the part of the universal Church and the particular Churches [is] the domain of communion (koinonia), which embodies and reveals the very essence of the mystery of the Church. Communion is the fruit and demonstration of that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is poured out upon us through the Spirit whom Jesus gives us (cf. Rom 5:5), to make us all 'one heart and one soul' (Acts 4:32). It is in building this communion of love that the Church appears as 'sacrament', as the 'sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the human race.' The Lord's words on this point are too precise for us to diminish their import. Many things are necessary for the Church's journey through history, not least in this new century; but without charity (agape) all will be in vain. It is again the Apostle Paul who in his hymn to love reminds us: even if we speak the tongues of men and of angels, and if we have faith 'to move mountains', but are without love, all will come to 'nothing' (cf. 1 Cor 13:2). Love is truly the 'heart' of the Church''.[21]

These matters, which concern the very nature of the universal Church, have a particular significance for the Church which is in China. Indeed you are aware of the problems that she is seeking to overcome -- within herself and in her relations with Chinese civil society -- tensions, divisions and recriminations.

In this regard, last year, while speaking of the nascent Church, I had occasion to recall that ''from the start the community of the disciples has known not only the joy of the Holy Spirit, the grace of truth and love, but also trials that are constituted above all by disagreements about the truths of faith, with the consequent wounds to communion. Just as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will continue to the end (cf. 1 Jn 1:1ff.), so also, from the start, division unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists today ... Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of the Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and brotherhood. Consequently it is a specific duty of those who believe in the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger too''.[22]

The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic communion is not expressed without arduous efforts at reconciliation.[23] Indeed, the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrong-doers, the forgetting of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of troubled hearts, all to be accomplished in the name of Jesus crucified and risen, can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints, born of painful or difficult experiences. These are urgent steps that must be taken if the bonds of communion between the faithful and the Pastors of the Church in China are to grow and be made visible.

For this reason, my venerable predecessor on several occasions addressed to you an urgent invitation to pardon and reconciliation. In this regard, I am pleased to recall a passage from the message that he sent you at the approach of the Holy Year 2000: ''In your preparation for the Great Jubilee, remember that in the biblical tradition this moment always entailed the obligation to forgive one another's debts, to make satisfaction for injustices committed, and to be reconciled with one's neighbour. You too have heard the proclamation of the 'great joy prepared for all peoples': the love and mercy of the Father, the Redemption accomplished in Christ. To the extent that you yourselves are ready to accept this joyful proclamation, you will be able to pass it on, by your lives, to the men and women around you. My ardent desire is that you will respond to the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit by forgiving one another whatever needs to be forgiven, by drawing closer to one another, by accepting one another and by breaking down all barriers in order to overcome every possible cause of division. Do not forget the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: 'By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35). I rejoiced when I learned that you intend your most precious gift on the occasion of the Great Jubilee to be unity among yourselves and unity with the Successor of Peter. This intention can only be a fruit of the Spirit who guides the Church along the arduous paths of reconciliation and unity''.[24]

We all realize that this journey cannot be accomplished overnight, but be assured that the whole Church will raise up an insistent prayer for you to this end.

Keep in mind, moreover, that your path of reconciliation is supported by the example and the prayer of so many ''witnesses of the faith'' who have suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China. Their very existence represents a permanent blessing for you in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and their memory will not fail to produce abundant fruit.

Ecclesial communities and State agencies: relationships to be lived in truth and charity.

7. A careful analysis of the aforementioned painful situation of serious differences (cf. section 6 above), involving the lay faithful and their Pastors, highlights among the various causes the significant part played by entities that have been imposed as the principal determinants of the life of the Catholic community. Still today, in fact, recognition from these entities is the criterion for declaring a community, a person or a religious place legal and therefore ''official''. All this has caused division both among the clergy and among the lay faithful. It is a situation primarily dependent on factors external to the Church, but it has seriously conditioned her progress, giving rise also to suspicions, mutual accusations and recriminations, and it continues to be a weakness in the Church that causes concern.

Regarding the delicate issue of the relations to be maintained with the agencies of the State, particular enlightenment can be found in the invitation of the Second Vatican Council to follow the words and modus operandi of Jesus Christ. He, indeed, ''did not wish to be a political Messiah who would dominate by force[25] but preferred to call himself the Son of Man who came to serve, and 'to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45). He showed himself as the perfect Servant of God[26] who 'will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick' (Mt 12:20). He recognized civil authority and its rights when he ordered tribute to be paid to Caesar, but he gave clear warning that the greater rights of God must be respected: 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21). Finally, he brought his revelation to perfection when he accomplished on the Cross the work of redemption by which he achieved salvation and true freedom for the human race. For he bore witness to the truth[27] but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke out against it. His Kingdom does not establish its claims by force,[28] but is established by bearing witness to and listening to the truth and it grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the Cross, draws people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32)''.[29]

Truth and charity are the two supporting pillars of the life of the Christian community. For this reason, I have observed that ''the Church of love is also the Church of truth, understood primarily as fidelity to the Gospel entrusted by the Lord Jesus to his followers ... However, if the family of God's children is to live in unity and peace, it needs someone to keep it in the truth and guide it with wise and authoritative discernment: this is what the ministry of the Apostles is required to do. And here we come to an important point. The Church is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ, from whom the capacity to love also comes ... The Apostles and their successors are therefore the custodians and authoritative witnesses of the deposit of truth consigned to the Church, and are likewise the ministers of charity. These are two aspects that go together ... Truth and love are the two faces of the same gift that comes from God and, thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded in the Church and handed down to us, to our present time!''.[30]

Therefore the Second Vatican Council underlines that "those also have a claim on our respect and charity who think and act differently from us in social, political, and religious matters. In fact, the more deeply, through courtesy and love, we come to understand their ways of thinking, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them''. But, as the same Council admonishes us, "love and courtesy of this kind should not, of course, make us indifferent to truth and goodness''.[31]

Considering "Jesus' original plan'',[32] it is clear that the claim of some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine, according to which the Church is "apostolic'', as the Second Vatican Council underlined. The Church is apostolic "in her origin because she has been built on 'the foundation of the Apostles' (Eph 2:20). She is apostolic in her teaching which is the same as that of the Apostles. She is apostolic by reason of her structure insofar as she is taught, sanctified, and guided until Christ returns by the Apostles through their successors who are the Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter''.[33] Therefore, in every individual particular Church, "it is in the name of the Lord that the diocesan Bishop [and only he] leads the flock entrusted to him, and he does so as the proper, ordinary and immediate Pastor'';[34] at a national level, moreover, only a legitimate Episcopal Conference can formulate pastoral guidelines, valid for the entire Catholic community of the country concerned.[35]

Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church''[36] is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic''.

In the light of the principles here outlined, Pastors and lay faithful will recall that the preaching of the Gospel, catechesis and charitable activity, liturgical and cultic action, as well as all pastoral choices, are uniquely the competence of the Bishops together with their priests in the unbroken continuity of the faith handed down by the Apostles in the Sacred Scriptures and in Tradition, and therefore they cannot be subject to any external interference.

Given this difficult situation, not a few members of the Catholic community are asking whether recognition from the civil authorities -- necessary in order to function publicly -- somehow compromises communion with the universal Church. I am fully aware that this problem causes painful disquiet in the hearts of Pastors and faithful. In this regard I maintain, in the first place, that the requisite and courageous safeguarding of the deposit of faith and of sacramental and hierarchical communion is not of itself opposed to dialogue with the authorities concerning those aspects of the life of the ecclesial community that fall within the civil sphere. There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed almost always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics. I understand, therefore, how in such varied conditions and circumstances it is difficult to determine the correct choice to be made. For this reason the Holy See, after restating the principles, leaves the decision to the individual Bishop who, having consulted his presbyterate, is better able to know the local situation, to weigh the concrete possibilities of choice and to evaluate the possible consequences within the diocesan community. It could be that the final decision does not obtain the consensus of all the priests and faithful. I express the hope, however, that it will be accepted, albeit with suffering, and that the unity of the diocesan community with its own Pastor will be maintained.

It would be good, finally, if Bishops and priests, with truly pastoral hearts, were to take every possible step to avoid giving rise to situations of scandal, seizing opportunities to form the consciences of the faithful, with particular attention to the weakest: all this should be lived out in communion and in fraternal understanding, avoiding judgements and mutual condemnations. In this case too, it must be kept in mind, especially where there is little room for freedom, that in order to evaluate the morality of an act it is necessary to devote particular care to establishing the real intentions of the person concerned, in addition to the objective shortcoming. Every case, then, will have to be pondered individually, taking account of the circumstances.

The Chinese Episcopate

8. In the Church -- the People of God -- only the sacred ministers, duly ordained after sufficient instruction and formation, may exercise the office of ''teaching, sanctifying and governing''. The lay faithful may, with a canonical mission from the Bishop, perform an ancillary ecclesial ministry of handing on the faith.

In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops, have encountered difficulties, since persons who are not "ordained'', and sometimes not even baptized, control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops, in the name of various State agencies. Consequently, we have witnessed a demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries by virtue of a vision of the Church according to which the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and the priests risk becoming de facto persons without office and without power. Yet in fact, as stated earlier, the Petrine and episcopal ministries are essential and integral elements of Catholic doctrine on the sacramental structure of the Church. The nature of the Church is a gift of the Lord Jesus, because "his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'' (Eph 4:11-13).

Communion and unity -- let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) -- are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is ''independent'' of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

I am aware of the grave difficulties which you have to address in the aforementioned situation in order to remain faithful to Christ, to his Church and to the Successor of Peter. Reminding you that -- as Saint Paul said (cf. Rom 8:35-39) -- no difficulty can separate us from the love of Christ, I am confident that you will do everything possible, trusting in the Lord's grace, to safeguard unity and ecclesial communion even at the cost of great sacrifices.

Many members of the Chinese episcopate who have guided the Church in recent decades have offered and continue to offer a shining testimony to their own communities and to the universal Church. Once again, let a heartfelt hymn of praise and thanksgiving be sung to the "chief Shepherd'' of the flock (1 Pet 5:4): in fact, it must not be forgotten that many Bishops have undergone persecution and have been impeded in the exercise of their ministry, and some of them have made the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood. Modern times and the consequent challenge of the new evangelization highlight the role of the episcopal ministry. As John Paul II said to the Pastors from every part of the world who gathered in Rome for the celebration of the Jubilee, "the Pastor is the first to take responsibility for and to encourage the ecclesial community, both in the requirement of communion and in the missionary outreach. Regarding the relativism and subjectivism which mar so much of contemporary culture, Bishops are called to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of their faithful. Concerned for every situation in which the faith has been lost or is unknown, they work with all their strength for evangelization, preparing priests, religious and lay people for this task and making the necessary resources available''.[37]

On the same occasion, my venerable predecessor recalled that "the Bishop, a successor of the Apostles, is someone for whom Christ is everything: 'For to me to live is Christ ...' (Phil 1:21). He must bear witness to this in all his actions. The Second Vatican Council teaches: 'Bishops should devote themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses of Christ to all' (Decree Christus Dominus, 11)''.[38]

Concerning episcopal service, then, I take the opportunity to recall something I said recently: "The Bishops are primarily responsible for building up the Church as a family of God and a place of mutual help and availability. To be able to carry out this mission, you received with episcopal consecration three special offices: the munus docendi, the munus sanctificandi and the munus regendi, which all together constitute the munus pascendi. In particular, the aim of the munus regendi is growth in ecclesial communion, that is, in building a community in agreement and listening to the Apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship. Closely linked to the offices of teaching and of sanctifying, that of governing -- the munus regendi precisely -- constitutes for the Bishop an authentic act of love for God and for one's neighbour, which is expressed in pastoral charity''.[39]

As in the rest of the world, in China too the Church is governed by Bishops who, through episcopal ordination conferred upon them by other validly ordained Bishops, have received, together with the sanctifying office, the offices of teaching and governing the people entrusted to them in their respective particular Churches, with a power that is conferred by God through the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The offices of teaching and governing ''however, by their very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college'' of Bishops.[40] In fact, as the Council went on to say, "a person is made a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the sacramental consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college''.[41]

Currently, all the Bishops of the Catholic Church in China are sons of the Chinese People. Notwithstanding many grave difficulties, the Catholic Church in China, by a particular grace of the Holy Spirit, has never been deprived of the ministry of legitimate Pastors who have preserved the apostolic succession intact. We must thank the Lord for this constant presence, not without suffering, of Bishops who have received episcopal ordination in conformity with Catholic tradition, that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained Bishops in observance of the rite of the Catholic Church.

Some of them, not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for clandestine consecration. The clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church's life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church's life. For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil effects too -- insofar as these are necessary -- and that all the faithful may be able to express their faith freely in the social context in which they live.

Other Pastors, however, under the pressure of particular circumstances, have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate. The Pope, considering the sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation, and taking into account the opinion of neighbouring Bishops, by virtue of his proper responsibility as universal Pastor of the Church, has granted them the full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction. This initiative of the Pope resulted from knowledge of the particular circumstances of their ordination and from his profound pastoral concern to favour the reestablishment of full communion. Unfortunately, in most cases, priests and the faithful have not been adequately informed that their Bishop has been legitimized, and this has given rise to a number of grave problems of conscience. What is more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter.
Finally, there are certain Bishops -- a very small number of them -- who have been ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not yet obtained, the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly ordained Bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected. Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise their ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they do so illegitimately. What great spiritual enrichment would ensue for the Church in China if, the necessary conditions having been established, these Pastors too were to enter into communion with the Successor of Peter and with the entire Catholic episcopate! Not only would their episcopal ministry be legitimized, there would also be an enrichment of their communion with the priests and the faithful who consider the Church in China part of the Catholic Church, united with the Bishop of Rome and with all the other particular Churches spread throughout the world.

In individual nations, all the legitimate Bishops constitute an Episcopal Conference, governed according to its own statutes, which by the norms of canon law must be approved by the Apostolic See. Such an Episcopal Conference expresses the fraternal communion of all the Bishops of a nation and treats the doctrinal and pastoral questions that are significant for the entire Catholic community of the country without, however, interfering in the exercise of the ordinary and immediate power of each Bishop in his own diocese. Moreover, every Episcopal Conference maintains opportune and useful contacts with the civil authorities of the place, partly in order to favour cooperation between the Church and the State, but it is obvious that an Episcopal Conference cannot be subjected to any civil authority in questions of faith and of living according to the faith (fides et mores, sacramental life), which are exclusively the competence of the Church.

In the light of the principles expounded above, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China[42] cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine'' Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

Appointment of Bishops

9. As all of you know, one of the most delicate problems in relations between the Holy See and the authorities of your country is the question of episcopal appointments. On the one hand, it is understandable that governmental authorities are attentive to the choice of those who will carry out the important role of leading and shepherding the local Catholic communities, given the social implications which -- in China as in the rest of the world -- this function has in the civil sphere as well as the spiritual. On the other hand, the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special care since this touches the very heart of the life of the Church, inasmuch as the appointment of Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of the unity of the Church and of hierarchical communion. For this reason the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 1382) lays down grave sanctions both for the Bishop who freely confers episcopal ordination without an apostolic mandate and for the one who receives it: such an ordination in fact inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and constitutes a grave violation of canonical discipline.

The Pope, when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a Bishop, exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and this intervention remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is not, therefore, a question of a political authority, unduly asserting itself in the internal affairs of a State and offending against its sovereignty.

The appointment of Bishops for a particular religious community is understood, also in international documents, as a constitutive element of the full exercise of the right to religious freedom.[43] The Holy See would desire to be completely free to appoint Bishops;[44] therefore, considering the recent particular developments of the Church in China, I trust that an accord can be reached with the Government so as to resolve certain questions regarding the choice of candidates for the episcopate, the publication of the appointment of Bishops, and the recognition -- concerning civil effects where necessary -- of the new Bishops on the part of the civil authorities.

Finally, as to the choice of candidates for the episcopate, while knowing your difficulties in this regard, I would like to remind you that they should be worthy priests, respected and loved by the faithful, models of life in the faith, and that they should possess a certain experience in the pastoral ministry, so that they are equipped to address the burdensome responsibility of a Pastor of the Church.[45] Whenever it proves impossible within a diocese to find suitable candidates to occupy the episcopal see, the cooperation of Bishops in neighbouring dioceses can help to identify suitable candidates.



Sacraments, governance of dioceses, parishes

10. In recent times difficulties have emerged, linked to individual initiatives taken by Pastors, priests and lay faithful, who, moved by generous pastoral zeal, have not always respected the tasks or responsibilities of others.

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council reminds us that, if on the one hand individual Bishops "as members of the episcopal college and legitimate successors of the Apostles, by Christ's arrangement and decree [are] bound to be solicitous for the entire Church'', on the other hand they "exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not over other Churches nor over the Church universal''.[46]

Moreover, faced with certain problems that have emerged in various diocesan communities during recent years, I feel it incumbent upon me to recall the canonical norm according to which every cleric must be incardinated in a particular Church or in an Institute of consecrated life and must exercise his own ministry in communion with the diocesan Bishop. Only for good reasons may a cleric exercise his ministry in another diocese, but always with the prior agreement of the two diocesan Bishops, that is, the Ordinary of the particular Church in which he is incardinated and the Ordinary of the particular Church for whose service he is destined.[47]

In not a few situations, then, you have faced the problem of concelebration of the Eucharist. In this regard, I remind you that this presupposes, as conditions, profession of the same faith and hierarchical communion with the Pope and with the universal Church. Therefore it is licit to concelebrate with Bishops and with priests who are in communion with the Pope, even if they are recognized by the civil authorities and maintain a relationship with entities desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, provided -- as was said earlier (cf. section 7 above, paragraph 8) -- that this recognition and this relationship do not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of the faith and of ecclesiastical communion.

The lay faithful too, who are animated by a sincere love for Christ and for the Church, must not hesitate to participate in the Eucharist celebrated by Bishops and by priests who are in full communion with the Successor of Peter and are recognized by the civil authorities. The same applies for all the other sacraments.

Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination -- as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) -- is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account, where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.

I consider it opportune, finally, to point out to you what canonical legislation provides in order to help diocesan Bishops to carry out their respective pastoral duty. Every diocesan Bishop is invited to make use of indispensable instruments of communion and cooperation within the diocesan Catholic community: the diocesan curia, the presbyteral council, the college of consultors, the diocesan pastoral council and the diocesan finance council. These agencies express communion, they favour the sharing of common responsibilities and are of great assistance to the Pastors, who can thus avail themselves of the fraternal cooperation of priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful.

The same is true of the various councils that canon law provides for parishes: the parish pastoral council and the parish finance council.

Both for dioceses and for parishes, particular attention must be devoted to the Church's temporal goods, moveable and immoveable, which must be legally registered in the civil sphere in the name of the diocese or parish and never in the name of individual persons (that is, the Bishop, parish priest or a group of the faithful). Meanwhile, the traditional pastoral and missionary guideline that can be neatly summarized in the principle: "nihil sine Episcopo''; retains all its validity.

From the analysis of the problems outlined above, it emerges clearly that any real solution will be rooted in the promotion of communion, which draws its vigour and impetus, as from a source, from Christ, the icon of the Father's love. Charity, which is always above everything (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-12), will be the force and the criterion in pastoral work for the construction of an ecclesial community capable of making the Risen Christ present to modern man.

Ecclesiastical provinces

11. Numerous administrative changes have taken place in the civil sphere during the last fifty years. This has also involved various ecclesiastical circumscriptions, which have been eliminated or regrouped or have been modified in their territorial configuration on the basis of the civil administrative circumscriptions. In this regard, I wish to confirm that the Holy See is prepared to address the entire question of the circumscriptions and ecclesiastical provinces in an open and constructive dialogue with the Chinese Episcopate and -- where opportune and helpful -- with governmental authorities.

Catholic communities

12. I am well aware that the diocesan and parochial communities, spread over the vast Chinese territory, demonstrate a particular liveliness of Christian life, witness of faith and pastoral initiative. It is consoling for me to note that, despite past and present difficulties, the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful have maintained a profound awareness of being living members of the universal Church, in communion of faith and life with all the Catholic communities throughout the world. They know in their hearts what it means to be Catholic. And it is precisely from this Catholic heart that the commitment must likewise issue forth to make manifest and effective, both within individual communities and in relations between different communities, that spirit of communion, understanding and forgiveness which -- as was said earlier (cf. section 5 above, paragraph 4, and section 6) -- is the visible seal of an authentic Christian life. I am sure that the Spirit of Christ, just as he helped the communities to keep the faith alive in time of persecution, will today help all Catholics to grow in unity.

As I have already observed (cf. section 2 above, paragraph 1, and section 4, paragraph 1), members of Catholic communities in your country -- especially Bishops, priests and consecrated persons -- are unfortunately not yet allowed to live and to express fully and visibly certain aspects of their belonging to the Church and their hierarchical communion with the Pope, since free contact with the Holy See and with other Catholic communities in various countries is ordinarily impeded. It is true that in recent years the Church has enjoyed greater religious freedom than in the past. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that grave limitations remain that touch the heart of the faith and that, to a certain degree, suffocate pastoral activity. In this regard I renew my earnest wish (cf. section 4 above, paragraphs 2, 3, 4) that in the course of a respectful and open dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese Bishops on the one hand, and the governmental authorities on the other, the difficulties mentioned may be overcome and thus a fruitful understanding may be reached that will prove beneficial to the Catholic community and to social cohesion.


13. I would now like to address a special reflection and an invitation to priests -- especially those ordained in recent years -- who have undertaken the path of the pastoral ministry with such generosity. It seems to me that the current ecclesial and socio-political situation renders ever more urgent the need to draw light and strength from the well-springs of priestly spirituality, which are God's love, the unconditional following of Christ, passion for proclamation of the Gospel, faithfulness to the Church and generous service of neighbour.[48] How can I fail to recall, in this regard, as an encouragement for all, the shining examples of Bishops and priests who, in the difficult years of the recent past, have testified to an unfailing love for the Church, even by the gift of their own lives for her and for Christ?

My dear priests! You who bear "the burden of the day and the scorching heat'' (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not look back (cf. Lk 9:62): think of those places where the faithful are waiting anxiously for a priest and where for many years, feeling the lack of a priest, they have not ceased to pray for one to arrive. I know that among you there are confrères who have had to deal with difficult times and situations, adopting positions that cannot always be condoned from an ecclesial point of view and who, despite everything, want to return to full communion with the Church. In the spirit of that profound reconciliation to which my venerable predecessor repeatedly invited the Church in China,[49] I turn now to the Bishops who are in communion with the Successor of Peter, so that with a paternal spirit they may evaluate these questions case by case and give a just response to that desire, having recourse -- if necessary -- to the Apostolic See. And, as a sign of this desired reconciliation, I think that there is no gesture more significant than that of renewing as a community -- on the occasion of the priestly day of Holy Thursday, as happens in the universal Church, or on another occasion that might be considered more opportune -- the profession of faith, as a witness to the full communion attained, for the edification of the Holy People of God entrusted to your pastoral care, and to the praise of the Most Holy Trinity.

Furthermore, I realize that in China too, as in the rest of the Church, the need for an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is emerging. Hence the invitation, addressed to you Bishops as leaders of ecclesial communities, to think especially of the young clergy who are increasingly subject to new pastoral challenges, linked to the demands of the task of evangelizing a society as complex as present-day Chinese society. Pope John Paul II reminded us of this: ongoing formation of priests "is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that 'new evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the second millennium''.[50]

Vocations and religious formation

14. During the last fifty years, the Church in China has never lacked an abundant flowering of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life. For this we must thank the Lord, because it is a sign of vitality and a reason for hope. Moreover, in the course of the years, many indigenous religious congregations have emerged: Bishops and priests know from experience what an indispensable contribution women religious make to catechesis and to parish life in all its forms; moreover, care for the most needy, offered in cooperation with the local civil authorities, is an expression of that charity and service of neighbour that are the most credible witness of the power and vitality of the Gospel of Jesus.

I am aware, however, that this flowering is accompanied, today, by not a few difficulties. The need therefore emerges both for more careful vocational discernment on the part of Church leaders, and for more in-depth education and instruction of aspirants to the priesthood and religious life. Notwithstanding the precariousness of the means available, for the future of the Church in China it will be necessary to take steps to ensure, on the one hand, particular attention in the care of vocations and, on the other hand, a more solid formation with regard to the human, spiritual, philosophical-theological and pastoral aspects, to be carried out in seminaries and religious institutes.

In this regard, the formation for celibacy of candidates for the priesthood deserves particular mention. It is important that they learn to live and to esteem celibacy as a precious gift from God and as an eminently eschatological sign which bears witness to an undivided love for God and for his people, and configures the priest to Jesus Christ, Head and Bridegroom of the Church. This gift, in fact, in an outstanding way "expresses the priest's service to the Church in and with the Lord'' [51] and has a prophetic value for today's world.

As for the religious vocation, in the present context of the Church in China it is necessary that its two dimensions be seen ever more clearly: namely, on the one hand, the witness of the charism of total consecration to Christ through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and on the other hand, the response to the demand to proclaim the Gospel in the socio- historical circumstances of the country today.

The Lay Faithful and the Family

15. In the most difficult periods of the recent history of the Catholic Church in China, the lay faithful, both as individuals and families and as members of spiritual and apostolic movements, have shown total fidelity to the Gospel, even paying a personal price for their faithfulness to Christ. My dear lay people, you are called, today too, to incarnate the Gospel in your lives and to bear witness to it by means of generous and effective service for the good of the people and for the development of the country: and you will accomplish this mission by living as honest citizens and by operating as active and responsible co-workers in spreading the word of God to those around you, in the country or in the city. You who in recent times have been courageous witnesses of the faith, must remain the hope of the Church for the future! This demands from you an ever more engaged participation in all areas of Church life, in communion with your respective Pastors.

Since the future of humanity passes by way of the family, I consider it indispensable and urgent that lay people should promote family values and safeguard the needs of the family. Lay people, whose faith enables them to know God's marvellous design for the family, have an added reason to assume this concrete and demanding task: the family in fact "is the normal place where the young grow to personal and social maturity. It is also the bearer of the heritage of humanity itself, because through the family, life is passed on from generation to generation. The family occupies a very important place in Asian cultures; and, as the Synod Fathers noted, family values like filial respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, love of children and harmony are held in high esteem in all Asian cultures and religious traditions''.[52]

The above-mentioned values form part of the relevant Chinese cultural context, but also in your land there is no lack of forces that influence the family negatively in various ways. Therefore the Church which is in China, aware that the good of society and her own good are profoundly linked to the good of the family,[53] must have a keener and more urgent sense of her mission to proclaim to all people God's plan for marriage and the family, ensuring the full vitality of each.[54]

Christian initiation of adults

16. The recent history of the Catholic Church in China has seen a large number of adults coming to the faith, thanks partly to the witness of the local Christian community. You, Pastors, are called to devote particular care to their Christian initiation via an appropriate and serious period of catechumenate aimed at helping them and preparing them to lead the life of Jesus' disciples.

In this regard, I would mention that evangelization is never purely intellectual communication, but rather includes experience of life, purification and transformation of the whole of existence, and a journey in communion. Only in this way is a proper relationship established between thought and life.

Looking then to the past, it is unfortunately the case that many adults have not always been sufficiently initiated into the complete truth of Christian life and have not even known the richness of the renewal brought by the Second Vatican Council. It therefore seems necessary and urgent to offer them a solid and thorough Christian formation, in the shape of a post-baptismal catechumenate.[[55]

The missionary vocation

17. The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher.

Addressing young pilgrims on the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Holy Year 2000, John Paul II said: "At the moment of his Ascension, Jesus gave his disciples a mission and this reassurance: 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations ... and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Mt 28:18-20). For two-thousand years Christ's followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the third millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, he speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for the people of the twenty-first century no less than those of the first century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into Christ's Kingdom''.[56]

Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous.


Revocation of faculties and of pastoral directives

18. Considering in the first place some positive developments of the situation of the Church in China, and in the second place the increased opportunities and greater ease in communication, and finally the requests sent to Rome by various Bishops and priests, I hereby revoke all the faculties previously granted in order to address particular pastoral necessities that emerged in truly difficult times.

Let the same be applied to all directives of a pastoral nature, past and recent. The doctrinal principles that inspired them now find a new application in the directives contained herein.

A day of prayer for the Church in China

19. Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: ''First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth'' (1 Tim 2:1-4).

On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world -- in particular those who are of Chinese origin -- will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.


20. At the conclusion of this Letter I pray that you, dear Pastors of the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, may "rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ'' (1 Pet 1:6-7).

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.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 27 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.

* * *

[1] Benedict XVI, Angelus of 26 December 2006: "With special spiritual closeness, I also think of those Catholics who maintain their fidelity to the See of Peter without ceding to compromises, sometimes at the price of grave sufferings. The whole Church admires their example and prays that they will have the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are the fount of victory, even if at that moment they can seem a failure''. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 12.

[2] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 10.

[3] Message to the participants of the International Convention ''Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.

[4] Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia" (6 November 1999), 7: AAS 92 (2000), 456.

[5] Cf. ibid., 19, 20: AAS 92 (2000), 477-482.

[6] Cf. Address to members of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (Manila, 15 January 1995), 11: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 25 January 1995, p. 6.

[7] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" (6 January 2001), 1: AAS 93 (2001), 266.

[8] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 23 August 2006), L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 30 August 2006, p. 3.

[9] John Paul II, Message to the participants of the International Convention ''Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, pp. 3-4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Cf. Fonti Ricciane, ed. Pasquale M. D'Elia, S.J., vol. 2, Rome 1949, no. 617, p. 152.

[12] Message to the participants of the International Convention ''Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 4: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.

[13] Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 76.

[14] Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" (25 December 2005), 28: AAS 98 (2006), 240. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 76.

[15] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 26.

[16] Ibid., 23.

[17] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion "Communionis Notio" (28 May 1992), 11-14: AAS 85 (1993), 844-847.

[18] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 23.

[19] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 13: AAS 85 (1993), 846.

[20] See also Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" (22 February 2007), 6: ''The Church's faith is essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God's word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: 'faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith.' For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church's life: 'thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!' The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people''.

[21] Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" (6 January 2001), 42: AAS 93 (2001), 296. See also Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" (25 December 2005), 12: "Divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the 'stray sheep', a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form'': AAS 98 (2006), 228.

[22] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.

[23] The lived experience of the ancient Church in time of persecution should be a source of enlightenment for all, as should the teaching given on this matter by the Church of Rome herself. Rome rejected the rigorist positions of the Novatians and the Donatists, and appealed for a generous attitude of pardon and reconciliation towards those who had apostatized during the persecutions (the "lapsi''), and wished to be readmitted to the communion of the Church.

[24] John Paul II, Message to the Catholic community in China Alla Vigilia (8 December 1999), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 15 December 1999, p. 5.

[25] Cf. Mt 4:8-10; Jn 6:15.

[26] Cf. Is 42:1-4.

[27] Cf. Jn 18:37.

[28] Cf. Mt 26:51-53; Jn 18:36.

[29] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae, 11.

[30] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.

[31]Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 28.

[32] Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.

[33] Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 174. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 857 and 869.

[34] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 10: AAS 90 (1998), 648.

[35] Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 447.

[36] Statutes of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), 2004, art. 3.

[37] Homily for the Jubilee of Bishops (8 October 2000), 5: AAS 93 (2001), 28. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church "Christus Dominus," 6.

[38] Ibid., 27.

[39] Benedict XVI, Address to new Bishops (21 September 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 696.

[40] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 21. Cf. also Code of Canon Law, c. 375 § 2.

[41]Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium", 22. Cf. also "Preliminary Explanatory Note'', No. 2.

[42] China Catholic Bishops' College (CCBC).

[43] At the universal level, see, for example, the provisions of art. 18, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966 ("Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching'') and the interpretation, binding for Member States, given to it by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in "General Comment 22'' (paragraph 4) of 30 July 1993 ("the practice and teaching of religion or belief includes acts integral to the conduct by religious groups of their basic affairs, such as freedom to choose their religious leaders, priests and teachers, the freedom to establish seminaries or religious schools and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious texts or publications'').
At the regional level, then, see, for example, the following commitments, assumed at the Vienna Meeting of the Representatives of States participating in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE): "In order to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practise religion or belief, the participating States will, inter alia ... respect the right of these religious communities to ... organize themselves according to their own hierarchical and institutional structure ... select, appoint and replace their personnel in accordance with their respective requirements and standards as well as with any freely accepted arrangement between them and their State''. (Concluding Document of 1989, Principle No. 16 of the Section 'Questions relating to Security in Europe''). Cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty "Dignitatis Humanae," 4.

[44] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church "Christus Dominus," 20.

[45]See, in this regard, the relevant norms of the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 378).

[46] Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 23.

[47]Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 265-272.

[48] For a reflection on the doctrine and spirituality of the priest and on the charism of celibacy, I refer to my address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 6.

[49] Cf. John Paul II, Message to the Church which is in China on the Seventieth Anniversary of the Ordination in Rome of the First Group of Chinese Bishops and on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Institution of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy in China La Memoria Liturgica (3 December 1996), 4: AAS 89 (1997), 256.

[50] Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 70: AAS 84 (1992), 782.

[51] Ibid., 29: AAS 84 (1992), 704.

[52] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia" (6 November 1999), 46: AAS 92 (2000), 521. Cf. Benedict XVI, Address at Fifth World Meeting of Families in Spain (Valencia, 8 July 2006): ''The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents. To proclaim the whole truth about the family based on marriage as a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all ... Christ has shown us what is always the supreme source of our life and thus of the lives of families: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends' (Jn 15:12-13). The love of God himself has been poured out upon us in Baptism. Consequently, families are called to experience this same kind of love, for the Lord makes it possible for us, through our human love, to be sensitive, loving and merciful like Christ'': AAS 98 (2006), 591-592.

[53] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 47.

[54] Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" (22 November 1981), 3: AAS 74 (1982), 84.

[55] As the Synod Fathers of the Seventh Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops observed (1-30 October 1987), in the formation of Christians "a post-baptismal catechesis in the form of a catechumenate can also be helpful by presenting again some elements from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with the purpose of allowing a person to grasp and live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility received at Baptism'': John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici" (30 December 1988), 61: AAS 81 (1989), 514. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1230-1231.

[56] Homily on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Israel, 24 March 2000), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 29 March 2000, p. 9.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


God in China; Oasis in a Hotspot
Beijing Faces a Faith Explosion

ROME, JUNE 28, 2007 ( A new documentary, "God in China. The Struggle for Religious Freedom," explores the best-kept secret of China: religion. According to the documentary, China is going through a massive resurgence of religious belief that the authorities of the atheistic regime are neither able to control nor contain.

Written and directed by Raphaela Schmid, director of the Becket Institute, and produced by Yago de la Cierva of Rome Reports TV News Agency, the documentary was previewed by students, professors and journalists in Rome.

With its new office in Rome, the Becket Institute is exploring ways to go beyond the conventionally academic means to educate a wider public about religious freedom.

"One such way is making topical television documentaries about religious freedom, based on the situation in various countries," Schmid said.

While not a film exclusively about Catholic issues, the China documentary offers unprecedented insight into both sides of the divide between the "official," or the government-controlled Patriotic Association of Catholic Churches, and the "underground" Church that remains loyal to Rome.

The film takes viewers across China where they meet believers of different faiths struggling for religious freedom, walking a thin line between toleration and persecution. In some places they discover new freedom, in others they suffer state control and even persecution.

From a rural underground parish to a clandestine seminary, from a state-sponsored Buddhist Academy to a mosque at the heart of Beijing's Muslim community, Chinese people from all walks of life candidly tell their stories and offer their assessment of what the future may hold for them.

The film coincides with the first official admission that at least 30% of all Chinese declare themselves to be members of a religion. More surprisingly, 20 million of the 60 million members of the Communist Party confess belonging to a religion.

It also makes clear the limitations various religious communities, whether state-controlled or independent, continue to face. "During the Cultural Revolution, faith communities were driven underground," Schmid explains. "In 1978, Deng Xiaoping's liberalization program began to open doors for the return of religion to Chinese public life."

Schmid said that some properties were restored and religious rights reaffirmed in the recently revised constitution. But even this limited sort of freedom came at a price: obeying the directives of the state-run Bureau for Religious Affairs.

In the case of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Patriotic Association was founded in an attempt to bring Catholic Church teaching in line with Communist party ideals.

"Those who refused to compromise had to remain underground," Schmid said. Throughout the documentary, viewers are made aware of the dangers that still exist. Christians who do not surrender their faith to government directives are in danger of being arrested. Mass is celebrated secretly, and makeshift churches can be torn down by local authorities from one day to the next.

Schmid said that while the underground Church is less vigorously persecuted today, there are still many bishops and priests in prison. In addition to more obvious issues of freedom, the documentary explores more subtle problems, such as making the teachings of the Church accessible to the faithful.

"It's important to understand that joining the Patriotic Association is not a mere formality for Chinese Catholics," Schmid explained.

"The problem is that, under state control, the Church cannot speak up on important issues such as abortion, the one child policy, human rights, and the death penalty -- and for this they must have leaders who do not acquiesce to a mutilated version of the faith, accommodated to the demands of the state."

Reflecting on her experience in China, Schmid said, "What struck me most during the filming of this documentary in China was the generosity and kindness of the people we met, particularly those who did so at great personal risk."

The film on China is the team's second venture. The first project was about religious freedom in Turkey and was filmed shortly before Benedict XVI's visit there last November.

* * *

Learning Peace in Bethlehem

Within the Israeli-built wall that segregates Bethlehem from its neighboring communities, Bethlehem University of the Holy Land is a haven for some 2,500 students.

The university, supported by the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches and staffed by the De LeSalle Christian Brothers, is the only Catholic Christian institution of higher learning in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Brother Daniel Casey, vice chancellor and chief executive officer of Bethlehem University, was among the 100 or so members of the Vatican agency that coordinates funding to Eastern Catholic Churches that met in Rome last week for their annual meeting. The agency, known by its Italian acronym ROACO, is under the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Founded in 1973, the university opened almost a decade after Pope Paul VI's historic visit to the region when Palestinians expressed their desire for a Catholic University in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Throughout its 30-year history, the Christian brothers, educational leaders, and the local Church have all supported the university and the ever-increasing numbers of students who receive practical training and an education in an atmosphere of true Christian dialogue.

Despite the recent infighting between Fatah and Hamas, and increased tensions in the Holy Land, Brother Casey said the culture and ethos of Bethlehem remains Christian.

"Bethlehem is in a unique position, in that it is the town that Jesus was born in, and the Christian population here, along with the two neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, is nearly a majority," Brother Casey said.

"It is very different here than in Gaza where the number of Christians is infinitesimal," he added.

Christian-Muslim dialogue is a high priority in the region, said the vice chancellor. The university and other area agencies educate both Christian and Muslim students to know and understand each other, know their religions, and to work together. "I believe we are successful at this," Brother Casey said.

There are very encouraging signs, he added. People in the area respect the university's Christian ideals and long-standing traditions. "We still adhere to a Sunday Christian day of worship. We are one of the few places that is closed on Sunday and open on Friday, the Muslim day of worship," Bother Casey said.

Moreover, Christian and Muslim students actively participate in their faiths and attend worship services. The university Mass is well attended. The Orthodox Christians also hold regular services, and a room for prayer is provided for the university's Muslim population.

Benedict XVI has expressed deep concern for the Christians and others in the entire Middle East. In addresses both to ROACO as well as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pope urged both respect and charity as principles for dialogue.

Against a backdrop of tension that pervades the whole region, Brother Casey said that the university does its best to maintain normalizing influence.

"There is a definite fear no matter where you live. In casual conversation I often hear people express gratitude for another day but unease at what the night will bring," Brother Casey remarked. While fear is inevitable, the university continues to hold international conferences, regular academic sessions, and to turn away applicants that exceed its capacity.

The past year presented special challenges. The crippling embargo, recently lifted, prevented the Palestinian Authority from providing much-needed aid to all of the region's institutions, including universities.

But, Brother Casey said, grants provided through UNESCO by the World Bank and Saudi Arabia allowed the university to continue to operate. "We did not experience the dire financial consequences that other sectors did," Brother Casey said. "Hundreds of families in the area had no regular income."

Students at the university also face unique challenges on a regular basis. Surrounded on all sides by the Israeli wall, most Palestinian towns, including the small town of Bethlehem, are virtual prisons. Students traveling to school from outside of Bethlehem are subject to random gate closures, military harassment and security checks that can cause long delays.

"I've experienced this myself, even as a foreigner," Brother Casey said. "There are people who have not been out of Bethlehem for five years. Living in Bethlehem is like living in a prison."

"This has an awful effect on people," he added. Brother Casey believes the violence the world witnesses among Palestinians is oftentimes a reaction to what is happening in their own lives.

"Young men who have no opportunity for employment, who have not made university admission, have absolutely nothing to do. They are naturally angry at their lot and are prey to the political situation. It breeds a violent reaction," Brother Casey said.

In addition to fostering positive relations among young people of different faith backgrounds, the university offers hope to many young people. As always, Brother Casey said Palestinians are looking for the way forward. With the lifting of the embargo and another new government, he said there is some hope.

"The idea of prayer has never been so pertinent as now," he said. "I hope people will pray for peace in the Holy Land."


Choose new Beijing bishop from existing prelates, Viet cardinal advises

Following a visit to Vietnam by a high level Chinese government delegation, Ho Chi Minh City's Cardinal Pham Minh Man has written to China's authorities suggesting that the new bishop of Beijing could be nominated from among the present government-approved bishops.

Cardinal Pham addressed his letter to two officials from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), UCA News reports.

Church sources said the officials led a seven-member delegation that visited the cardinal-archbishop at his official residence in early March and engaged in a closed-door meeting.

The 73-year-old cardinal said in his letter that the visit from Liu Haixing, deputy director-general of the Chinese foreign ministry's Department of European Affairs, and Wang Zuo'an, SARA deputy director, left him with very good impressions.

"This could be regarded as a bridge of communion between me and the Catholic Church in your country," Cardinal Man wrote.

A church source in Vietnam told UCA News that the letter, written in both Chinese and Vietnamese, was sent to Beijing through the Chinese consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City.

However, as of 31 May, there had been no reply from the Chinese government, the source said.

According to a copy of the letter that UCA News obtained on 28 May, Cardinal Man said he wished to visit China. He said he had originally hoped to lead some priests, religious sisters and laypeople to make a courtesy visit to the two Chinese officials as well as ailing bishops in Beijing and Shanghai in early April.

"It is a pity that I could not visit the Beijing bishop before he died," he said, referring to Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan of Beijing, who died 20 April of lung cancer at the age of 76.

The church source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told UCA News that the Chinese consul general had expressed hope the cardinal could visit China as a guest, but said "that would require an invitation" from a person or an organisation on the mainland.

A sense of what transpired in the March meeting between the cardinal and the Chinese officials can be gleaned from the cardinal's letter, in which he offers some suggestions for the good of the Chinese people, the Catholic Church in China and the "glorious relations" between China and the Holy See.

The prelate suggested that "the best way" to solve the leadership succession issue in the Beijing Diocese is for the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China, "not any other organisation," to call for a meeting of all mainland bishops and have them nominate candidates chosen from bishops who are presently in office.

Then the Holy See will submit its list, from among these candidates, to the Chinese government for its opinions. Once the Chinese government gives its consent, the Holy See would appoint the new Beijing bishop, he continued.

The cardinal said he believed that if the Chinese bishops could "pray quietly and freely, exchange views, and face no pressure, threat of domination or control," they would be able to make decisions in the long-term interest of the Chinese people and the Catholic Church in China.


No China ties unless Vatican appoints bishops

In an interview on a visit to Japan, former Holy See foreign minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo has reiterated that the Vatican and China will only be able to establish diplomatic ties if China allows the pope to appoint bishops in the country.

On his first visit to Japan, the archbishop, currently governor of Vatican City, also said that even though the bishops appointed by the Vatican are not allowed to exercise authority in China, more than 85 percent of those appointed by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is under the control of the Chinese government, later asked to be recognised by the pope, The Daily Yomiuri reports.

Explaining the desire of the Holy See to have diplomatic relations with China, Archbishop Lajolo said that China is estimated to have from 8 to 18 million Catholics.

"Given such a multitude of faithful, the pope wishes to have his representatives there in order to take care of their pastoral needs," Archbishop Lajolo said.

"The Chinese government under certain conditions would be ready to accept a representative of the pope, but only as an apostolic nuncio [ambassador].

"The Holy See, for its part, sets a preliminary condition for sending an apostolic nuncio - the freedom of the pope to appoint bishops.

"Certainly the role of the apostolic nuncio would be beneficial in safeguarding religious freedom," Archbishop Lajolo said.

According to the governor of the Vatican city state, the real obstacle comes from the Chinese government, which is not yet willing to stop its interference in the appointments of Catholic bishops.

"The Holy See and China can easily reach an understanding once this preliminary question is resolved," he concluded.


"Christian explosion" among Chinese intellectuals, expert finds

Christian fellowships are now active in most Chinese universities, resulting in a "Christian explosion" that has "reshaped the religious landscape" in the communist country, a British academic has found.

"Today it is an open secret that Christian fellowships - a new kind of 'house church', run by Chinese professors and students, are active in most Chinese universities," according to Edmond Tang, from the University of Birmingham, editor of the new-look China Study Journal to be launched next Monday, Independent Catholic News reports.

"More than 30 academic faculties and research centres are devoted to the study of a once maligned religion. The question is why."

According to Tang "it is not enough today just to document what is happening on the ground".

"It is equally important, if not more so, to know what people are thinking religiously, and how that relates to the moral and spiritual questions that are debated by the educated Chinese," Tang says. "This is where the real heartbeat of a new China can be found."

Anglican Bishop David Urquhart, who will help launch the journal, said: "It can be very hard to find and source accurate information about life and the Church in China. This journal provides an invaluable and authoritative link and will be of immense value to a wide cross-section of people."

The China Study Journal is an initiative of the China Desk, an office of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland in cooperation with the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham.

The publication has its roots in a research project begun in the 1970s at the height of the Cultural Revolution, a period when China was cut off from the outside world, when churches and other religious organizations in China were forbidden, and when religious persecution was rife.


9 Priests Arrested in China

ROME, JAN. 6, 2007 ( Nine priests were arrested in the diocese of Baoding, in the northern province of Hebei, China, reported AsiaNews.

The group of priests had met to study on Dec. 27, the day of their arrest. AsiaNews explained that it is likely they were arrested because they were meeting for a time of prayer during the Christmas season in a place unknown to the government.

The northern province of Hebei is the region with the highest number of Catholics (1.5 million), most of them belonging to the underground Church.

The Chinese government allows religious practice in the country only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association, whose statute provides for the creation of a national Church split from the Holy See.

According to AsiaNews, the Patriotic Association has launched a campaign of arrests of bishops, priests and believers from Hebei in a bid to subdue them. The agency reported that at least six underground bishops of Hebei have disappeared after their arrest. Among them is Bishop James Su Zhimin, 73, of Baoding, who was arrested in 1996.

Auxiliary Bishop Francis Shuxin of Baoding was released on Aug. 24 by the Chinese authorities after 10 years of imprisonment.


Excommunicate China's bishops, cardinal tells Vatican

By Richard Spencer in Beijing   21/12/2006

The leader of Hong Kong's Roman Catholics, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has called on the Pope to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops, as relations between Beijing and the Holy See plunge to new lows.

China's state-run Church has ordained bishops in defiance of Rome, despite negotiations since the death of John-Paul II aimed at restoring diplomatic ties after more than half a century.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong and one of the Church's key voices on Chinese issues, said that the time had come for the Vatican to take an uncompromising stance.

In the most recent case, at the end of November, the ordination went ahead despite a clear warning from the Holy See that it would be in breach of Canon Law.

"I think people in the underground Church and also in the good part of the official Church don't expect the Holy See to ratify this ordination easily, and they don't expect the Holy See to absolve these bishops from sanctions," he said.

Canon law calls for the excommunication of both those ordaining and being ordained if it is without Church approval. Cardinal Zen said that the Vatican had acted quickly to excommunicate Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former archbishop of Lusaka who married and then conducted four ordinations of rebel bishops.

Mainland China has six million people worshipping in the state-backed Catholic Church, but the same number again or even more worship in underground churches loyal to Rome. They are frequently repressed, and a number of bishops remain in prison.

Until recently, a compromise held whereby the official Church would only elevate bishops after receiving an indication from Rome that the candidate had the Vatican's approval. But Cardinal Zen said this compromise had run its course.

Excommunicating bishops would mark a major break between the Vatican and the Chinese Church, which is regarded as estranged from but still "in communion" with the mainstream.

But the cardinal said that Beijing had been using the ordinations as a show of force. He also alleged that two other bishops loyal to Rome were abducted by the authorities to take part in the service to lend it credibility.

According to Asia News, a Catholic news agency, one escaped and is now in hiding.

The Communist leadership fears foreign organisations such as the Church might play a role in organising dissent, and was particularly nervous of the late John-Paul II because of his perceived role in the collapse of European Communism.

The cardinal, who was born in Shanghai, said that it was now time to offer clear leadership to the underground Church, which had suffered for its "heroic resistance" to the state.


Vatican Statement on Episcopal Ordination in China
"Conferred Without a Pontifical Mandate"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2006 ( Here is a translation of the statement issued on Saturday by the Vatican press office on the unlawful episcopal ordination of Father Giovanni Wang Renlei in Xuzhou, China.

* * *

The Holy See feels duty-bound to make its position known about the episcopal ordination of the priest John Wang Renlei, which took place on Thursday in Xuzhou, in Jiangsu province in mainland China.

1) The Holy Father learned about the news with profound sorrow, since the above-mentioned episcopal ordination was conferred without a pontifical mandate, that is, without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church about the appointment of bishops (cf. Code of Cannon Law 377, paragraph 1).

2) The ordination in Xuzhou is the latest -- chronologically -- in a series of illegitimate episcopal ordinations that have afflicted the Catholic Church in China for decades, creating division in diocesan communities and tormenting the conscience of many clerics and faithful. This series of extremely grave acts, which offend the religious sentiments of each and every Catholic in China and the rest of the world, are the fruit and consequence of a vision of the Church that does not correspond with Catholic doctrine and subverts the fundamental principles of its hierarchical structure. In fact, as specified by the Second Vatican Council, "one is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body" ("Lumen Gentium," no. 22).

3) The Holy See, getting to know about the episcopal ordination in the diocese of Xuzhou only at the last minute, did not fall short of taking those steps that could possibly be undertaken in the short time at its disposal, so that this act, which would have produced a new laceration in the ecclesial community, would not come about. In fact, an illegitimate episcopal ordination is objectively such a serious act that canon law establishes severe sanctions for those who confer or receive it, always if the act is undertaken in conditions of true freedom (cf. Canon 1382).

4) It is consoling to see that, despite past and present difficulties, nearly all the bishops, priests, members of religious orders and lay people in China, aware that they make up a living part of the universal Church, have maintained a deep communion of faith and life with the Successor of Peter and with all the Catholic communities scattered around the world.

5) The Holy See is aware of the spiritual drama and suffering of those clerics -- consecrated bishops and ordinands -- who find themselves forced to take an active part in illicit episcopal ordinations, thus contravening Catholic tradition, which they desire to follow faithfully in their hearts. Further, it shares in the inner unease felt by those Catholics -- priests, religious and lay people -- who are obliged to welcome a pastor who they know is not in full hierarchical communion neither with the head of the college of bishops nor with other bishops scattered around the world.

6) As regards episcopal ordinations, the Holy See cannot accept to be faced with accomplished facts. Therefore, it deplores the way of proceeding in the ordination of the priest, Wang Renlei, which took place in Xuzhou, and hopes that incidents of the kind will not be repeated in the future.


Vatican dismay over new China bishop ordination blow

A Chinese bishop who is one the few remaining bishops still without approval from the Holy See plans to ordain a new bishop this week in what some observers say may be the first in another wave of unauthorised episcopal ordinations.

AsiaNews reports that the illicit ordination will take place in the city of Xuzhou in the Jiangsu region of eastern-central China on 30 November.

Local sources of Xuzhou told AsiaNews that Fr Wang Renlei, the diocese's Vicar General, is to be ordained bishop in a ceremony led by current local Bishop Qian Yurong.

Bishop Qian is one of the few bishops of the official Church who has not sought reconciliation with the Pope and is thus not in communion with the Holy See.

According to AsiaNews, Fr Wang, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1996, is well known for his pro-government positions.

Fr Wang was elected by a "democratic method" at a city hotel meeting more than a week ago, AsiaNews believes.

Although the eight priests of the diocese would have opted for a priest who is more determined and courageous in defending Church freedom, "everything had already be decided beforehand" by government officials.

AsiaNews says that there are unverified rumours say that two other bishops will arrive "from Beijing" to take part in the ceremony. Rumours also say that government authorities have promised to give the diocese 6 million yuan (about 600,000 euros) to cover costs for the ordination, an enormous sum for a diocese of 20,000 members.

Several months ago, the government's Patriotic Association and the Religious Affairs Bureau carried out a series of ordinations without the Holy See's permission. The Vatican harshly criticised the gesture as "a serious violation of religious freedom".

The wave of international criticism against China's gesture and the visit of a Vatican delegation to Beijing last June seemed to have defused the crisis.

Vatican figures are now said to be "dismayed" by the news of the forthcoming ordination and told AsiaNews that they hope the "ordination is cancelled."

However, other AsiaNews sources claim that the Patriotic Association is trying to ordain dozens of bishops without the approval of the Holy See, for the purpose of destroying all the work of reconciliation carried out so far between the Chinese Church and the Pope.

More than 80 per cent of Chinese bishops of the official Church are currently reconciled with the Pope.


The Church's China Hurdle
Religious Liberty Remains Elusive  By Father John Flynn

HONG KONG, NOV. 12, 2006 ( As speculation continues over the future of relations between the Vatican and China, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun recently offered to step up his activity in this area. In January the archbishop of Hong Kong reaches 75 years of age, when he must offer his resignation to the Pope. If this is accepted, then he would like to dedicate more time to the Church in mainland China, he told the South China Morning Post on Sept. 22.

Cardinal Zen said that he had spoken of this desire with Benedict XVI. According to a Sept. 28 report in the Morning Post, the Pope promised to consider the matter.

Earlier this year tensions between the Chinese government and the Vatican grew, after the state-controlled "patriotic" Catholic Church went ahead with ordinations of bishops. Father Ma Yingling was ordained as bishop of Kunming at a ceremony in the southwestern Yunnan province, reported the BBC on the day of the ceremony, April 30.

Cardinal Zen had requested Chinese authorities, on behalf of the Vatican, to delay the ceremony, according to the BBC. China's foreign ministry said that the Vatican's objections to the new bishops were "groundless," the South China Morning Post reported May 1. The foreign ministry also reportedly urged the Vatican to accept Beijing's authority to name bishops.

A second ordination quickly followed, that of Father Liu Xinhong, from the central province of Anhui. According to a report published the day of the ceremony, May 3, in the South China Morning Post, the Vatican sent a "clear message" ahead of time that the candidate did not have papal approval.

Benedict XVI received the news of the ordinations with "profound displeasure," according to a statement issued by then Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls. He added: "An act so relevant for the life of the Church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out" -- twice in the span of three days -- "without respecting the requirements of communion with the Pope."


The Code of Canon Law of the Church stipulates that in such cases both the bishops who ordain and the ordained bishop are automatically excommunicated.

But this did not stop Beijing. A third bishop, also without approval from Rome, celebrated a Mass to mark his installment just a few days later. Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, who was ordained in 2000 without papal approval, celebrated Mass in a church in the southern city of Ningde to mark his government appointment as head of the Mindong Diocese, the Associated Press reported May 14. He had been named bishop of the diocese a year ago, but at the time the event was not made public.

The Mindong Diocese, in the southern province of Fujian, has more than 60,000 Catholics, but only 10,000 worship in state-authorized churches, according to the Associated Press. The data came from Catholic Church sources in Hong Kong. The larger community of Catholics who do not accept the government's control already have a bishop, Huang Shoucheng, who was approved by the Vatican.

Persecution continues

In addition to their hard line with Rome, Chinese authorities continue to persecute those who do not submit to government rules on religious belief. Cardinal Zen outlined some of the problems faced, in an Oct. 2 speech in London organized by the group Aid to the Church in Need.

According to the London-based service Christian Today, the cardinal explained that the government-approved churches in China are not overseen by the bishops, but are really run by selected lay people. The latter are "instruments of the government" within the congregations, the cardinal said.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Zen spoke positively of a recent invitation from the Chinese Church for a delegation to come from the Holy See -- the first such invitation in years. "We have to trust Divine Providence," he said. "So even after half a century we accept whatever happens because surely it is by Divine Providence."

Among the government's targets are the "house churches" that spring up in many places. These are showing increased boldness, the Washington Post reported Oct. 1.

The house churches don't accept the restrictions imposed by the government-approved Protestant church, known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Government demolitions of the buildings used to hold the illegal church ceremonies have drawn local protests in the southern province of Zhejiang.

A detailed look at the situation in that country came in a report published Sept. 20 by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The U.S. Congress set up the commission in October 2000 with a mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China. The commission submits an annual report to the president and Congress.

The latest report noted that religious groups that choose not to register with the government, or those that the government refuses to register, "operate outside the zone of protected religious activity and risk harassment, detention, imprisonment, and other abuses." And even those groups that are registered risk repression if they engage in religious activities that authorities deem a threat to the authority or legitimacy of the Communist Party.

No improvement

Two years ago the government introduced new rules on religious activity. The 2004 Regulation on Religious Affairs, as it is called, has not led to greater freedom of faith for Chinese citizens, according to the U.S. commission. This is in spite of Chinese government claims that the new rules represented a "paradigm shift" by limiting state control over religion.

In 2005, for example, authorities detained 21 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns as part of government attempts to control religious activity in the region. The report said that 50 Tibetan monks and nuns are currently imprisoned.

The commission stated that government repression of unapproved Catholic priests increased in the past year. Citing reports from nongovernmental organizations, the U.S. report said that officials in Hebei and Zhejiang provinces detained a total of 38 unregistered clerics in the last year, compared with 11 the previous year.

Catholic bishops who lead large unregistered communities face the most severe punishment. Bishop Jia Zhiguo, of the Zhengding Diocese in Hebei province, has spent most of the past year in detention. He has been detained at least eight times since 2004.

The U.S. report even noted increased government harassment of members of the official "patriotic" Catholic Church. On three occasions in November and December 2005, officials or unidentified assailants beat Catholic nuns or priests, officially registered by the government, after they demanded the return of church property.

The government also strictly controls the practice of Islam. The state-controlled Islamic Association of China aligns Muslims' practice to Communist Party goals by measures that include directing the training and confirmation of religious leaders, and controlling the content of sermons and publications.

The U.S. commission also touched on the topic of Protestant house churches. The commission cited data from one nongovernmental organization that put at nearly 2,000 the number of believers who were detained in the period May 2005-May 2006. China, for now, seems much more open to economic freedom than to the religious variety.


Hong Kong Cardinal says China persecutes both official and underground churches

Speaking in London, outspoken Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen says that Beijing is afraid of anything not under its control and as a result persecutes both the officially recognised "Patriotic" Church and the unofficial "underground" Church.

Christian Today reports that London's Westminster Cathedral Hall was packed on Saturday as Cardinal Zen (pictured) expressed his anger over the constant supervision and intervention of the government which meant that the individual churches were not controlled by the bishops but rather by the selected lay persons who were used as "instruments of the government" within the congregations.

"That is a humiliation to our bishops," he said, before going on to refer to the earlier incident when bishops invited by the Pope to join the Synod were refused permission by the Chinese government.

"If they really understood how the Catholic Church is in the world, they would have no fear of the Catholic Church.

"The Communist Regime is afraid of any contact that is not under their control."

The Church in China is such a small minority so why should they be afraid," he said. In an earlier Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) press conference, Cardinal Zen stressed that the Church in China is "in no way a threat to the state".

The relationship between the Catholic Church in Hong Kong and the Chinese government was also "a very difficult one". "But compared to mainland China, we are really lucky," he conceded.

The Bishop of Hong Kong went on to mention the ordinations of two bishops nominated by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association without Vatican approval earlier in the year.

If this was an attempt by the Chinese government to ensure the loyalty of the bishops only to itself, then it had "failed", Cardinal Zen insisted, stressing that the bishops involved "in their heart don't feel assured as they know it is wrong" and are now seeking forgiveness from the Holy See.

Cardinal Zen expressed hope, however, in the interest that has rekindled within the Chinese government in relations with the Holy See since the death of John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict.

He also spoke positively of the recent invitation from the Chinese Church for a delegation to come from the Holy See – the first such invitation in years.

"We have to trust the Divine Providence. So even after half a century we accept whatever happens because surely it is by Divine Providence."

Cardinal Zen was speaking at an event organised by Aid to the Church in Need.


2 Chinese Priests Arrested

SHENZHEN, China, OCT. 2, 2006 ( Two priests were arrested in Shenzhen, in the southern province of Guangdong, reports a U.S.-based watchdog agency.

Father Shao Zhoumin, the vicar general of the Wenzhou Diocese in Zhejiang province, and Father Jiang Sunian, the chancellor of the Wenzhou Diocese, were arrested on Sept. 25 in Shenzhen, southern province of Guangdong.

The priests were arrested upon returning from Europe, reports the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

The two priests were arrested three hours after arriving to Shenzhen. The place of their detention is unknown.

The police took away a large number of books and photos that the priests brought back from Europe and Rome. No reasons were given for their arrest.

Both of the priests from Wenzhou are part of the underground Church.

Both Father Saho and Father Jiang were arrested on Oct. 27, 2005 after they concelebrated Mass with other priests to close the Eucharistic Year proclaimed by the Pope John Paul II.

Father Shao was also arrested in 1999 and later released.

Father Jiang was detained in 1999 for publishing hymn books, sentenced to a six-year jail term, and fined the equivalent of $32,000. He was released in 2003.


Released Chinese bishop seeks reconciliation

A Vatican-recognised Chinese bishop who was recently released after more than 10 years house arrest says he wished to work for the "communion and development" of China's underground and government-sanctioned "open" Catholic communities.

UCA News reports that Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Baoding diocese in Hebei, about 145 kilometres southwest of Beijing, has now gained the government's recognition of his position as a bishop and is permitted to do pastoral work openly under the government's management.

However, even though he is now part of the government-approved Church, he said he has not joined the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and has not received an official identity card.

The CCPA, which serves as a bridge between the Communist government and the open Church, upholds the principles of "independence, autonomy and self-management" for the Church in China.

The 57-year-old prelate said that he decided to "come out" and join the open Church "for communion and development" of both Church communities. The Holy See also supports such moves toward reconciliation, he continued.

Bishop An was detained in March 1996 during crackdowns on the underground Catholic community of Baoding and placed under house arrest. "My freedom was restricted but I was well taken care of," he said.

The prelate was released a few days after he concelebrated a Mass with government-sanctioned clerics on 20 August. The local government had demanded that as a sign of his membership in the open Church, he should concelebrate the Sunday Mass with government-recognised Bishop Su Changshan of Baoding and seven open Church priests in the presence of 700 Catholics.

"If both sides don't achieve reconciliation in the Sacraments, our talk about reconciliation is just empty words," Bishop An remarked. He said he regretted that he had not realised the importance of communion earlier.

Leaders of Baoding's open Church community said they welcomed Bishop An joining them, but that full reconciliation is still a distant dream.

Fr Joseph Yang Yicun, a concelebrant, told UCA News that the Mass was offered for unity and solidarity. The congregation warmly welcomed and applauded Bishop An, he noted.

Baoding has been a stronghold of the underground Church, which has about 80 priests, 100 nuns and about 100,000 Catholics. The open Church community in Baoding has one bishop, 15 priests, about 10 nuns and 10,000 Catholics.

Bishop An has placed a priority on trying to unite the underground community, which is split over the issue of him joining the open Church.

According to a local Church source, Bishop An's release has aroused fierce debate among Catholics, some of which has taken place in chat rooms of some mainland Catholic websites.


Chinese Bishop Freed After 10 Years
Seminary Rector Arrested in 1996

BAODING, China, AUG. 27, 2006 ( After a decade of confinement, the Chinese authorities released Auxiliary Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Baoding, in Hebei province.

The prelate, 57, was released Thursday because he accepted recognition by the government, but without registering with the Patriotic Association, reported AsiaNews.

In China, the government allows religious practice only with known personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau and under the control of the Patriotic Association. Officials see the "underground" Catholic Church as obeying the Pope directly.

The bishop was arrested in May 1996 during a raid on the underground seminary of Baoding, of which he was rector, by order of then-President Jiang Zemin.

The seminary was then disbanded, and priests on the formation team were arrested.

The U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation also reported Bishop Shuxin's release in a communiqué sent to ZENIT.

According to the note, the only time the bishop was seen during his detention was in 2000, when the police allowed him to visit his elderly mother to mark the Chinese New Year.

He had told her "I will see you in heaven," said the foundation.

AsiaNews reported that the bishop said that he had been "treated well" throughout these years, though his movements were restricted.

At least six underground bishops of Hebei have disappeared, among them Bishop James Su Zhimin, 73, of Baoding.

Only one other bishop has been recognized by the government without registering with the Patriotic Association -- Bishop Lucas Li Jingfeng of Shaanxi.

He was one of the four bishops invited by Benedict XVI to the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005. The Chinese government did not allow any of the bishops to attend.

Hebei is the Chinese region with the greatest concentration of Catholics, numbering over 1.5 million, most of whom belong to the underground Church.


Bishop Zheng Shouduo Dies at 89

KIANGCHOW, China, AUG. 17, 2006 ( Crowds of faithful gathered for a last farewell to Agostino Zheng Shouduo, the first bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Kiangchow, in the Chinese province of Shanxi.

He died at age 89 in his prefecture on July 16 after a long illness, Vatican Radio confirmed this month.

Agostino Zheng Shouduo was born on March 17, 1917. He was ordained a priest in 1949, and received his episcopal consecration in 1982.

He was labeled a "counterrevolutionary" in 1964 and spent the next 15 years in forced labor, noted Vatican Radio.

On learning of his death, more than 1,000 faithful gathered for a prayer vigil. Funeral rites for his soul were celebrated nine days after his death in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Bishops of the region and some 50 priests participated in the funeral rites. Also present were government authorities with whom the prelate had a cordial relationship, observed Vatican Radio.

Bishop Zheng took special interest in the formation of priests and women religious, and had a profound devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Kiangchow covers some 17,000 square kilometers and has about 10,000 Catholics, mostly peasants. It has 29 priests, 27 of whom were ordained by Bishop Zheng.


Priests from China in pilot Sydney study tour (August 2006)

Sydney's Chinese Catholic Community is supporting four Chinese priests from China who plan to pursue their theological studies in Australia as part of a pilot cooperation project.

China's Faith Weekly reports that the four priests pursuing further theological study in Sydney are Fr Joseph Lu Yong and Fr Joseph Gao Yonggui from Jinan Diocese, Shandong, and Fr Peter Gong Bayu and Fr Andrew Fu Qingwen from Yichang Diocese, West Hubei.

Initially, the priests will stay at the Chinese Catholic Community's Asiana Centre in Sydney's inner-west suburb of Ashfield for intensive language training before going to the Sydney Catholic Institute for further study in philosophy and theology.

Fr. Paschal Chang, former chaplain to the Chinese Community, led the four diocesan priests on a courtesy call to the Sydney Catholic Institute, the Columban Mission Institute and the Australian Catholic University, all located at Albert Road in Strathfield in Sydney's inner west.

Outlining the programs available at the various institutions for its readership, the Chinese weekly paid particular attention to the Centre for promoting Communion with the Church in China headed by Columban Fr Cyril Hally.

"A quarterly gazette - China Exchange - is published, under the editorship of Fr. Paul McGee," Faith Weekly noted.

"The Centre is a special area where a semblance of Chinese culture is demonstrated in its décor. On the surface of a folding screen provided outside the corridor of the Centre displaying the calligraphic script on Psalm 23 in classical Chinese translation.

"The famous Faith Press calendar showing the portrait of the Popes is displayed at the front door. The Centre has a rich collection of works in Chinese and other European languages for China Study.

"The Columban Institute was located originally at North Turramurra but for the convenience of the academic visitors, the Institute chose to relocate to the campus of Australian Catholic University. It was noted that it was the first time that the Centre had the visit of five Chinese priests at the same time. This is more than a sign of communion with the Church in China after the relocation of the Institute to Strathfield," the article concluded.

The paper also noted the call by Fr. Paschal Chang OFM to the Sydney Chinese Catholic community to support the Chinese priests studying in Australia both in prayers and financially "for the success of this pilot scheme".


Hong Kong Prelate: China to Halt Illicit Ordinations
Sees Positive Changes Under Way

SEOUL, South Korea, JULY 26, 2006 ( Hong Kong's auxiliary bishop says that the Chinese government intends to stop illicit episcopal ordinations, which have drawn the condemnation of the Holy See.

At a seminar last Thursday on ecumenism, organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Seoul, South Korea, Bishop John Tong Hon referred to the issue of the designation of Chinese bishops. He stated that the Beijing government "will stop illicit ordinations," reported AsiaNews.

Bishop Tong, 66, added that "positive changes are already evident in relations between the official and unofficial Church in China."

To date, the Chinese government has allowed religious practice in the country only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association, whose statute envisions the establishment of a national church split from the Holy See.

Last spring, two illicit episcopal ordinations took place without papal consent, at the insistence of the Patriotic Association. The event represented "a grave wound to the unity of the Church," said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls at the time.

At the end of May, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, already mentioned the Beijing government's intention to stop episcopal ordinations that did not have the Pope's consent.

In recent statements, the auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong observed that "The Chinese government wants dialogue with the Holy See, so it will have no more illegitimate ordinations."

And he commented on the international press' coverage of the topic during those weeks: "This kind of information can exert positive pressure on the Communist government. The media can play an important role."


Ill Bishop Disappears in China

JIN ZHOU, China, JULY 7, 2006 ( Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 72, was arrested while still in the hospital recovering from an operation. There has been no trace of him since the arrest last Sunday.

The U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation sent ZENIT a communiqué stating that on June 25, Bishop Jia Zhiguo, of the underground Church, bishop of the Zheng Ding Diocese, was arrested by the religious bureau personnel of Jin Zhou in Hebei.

According to the communiqué, the authorities removed the bishop from the hospital before his medical care was completed.

The faithful questioned the religious affairs office about his whereabouts and were told that the bishop had been sent away for a few days of "education."

There is no further information on his situation, the communiqué reports.

Ordained a bishop in 1980, he has lived virtually the whole of his episcopal ministry under house arrest and was previously imprisoned for approximately 20 years. It is estimated that this is the ninth or 10th arrest suffered by Bishop Jia Zhiguo since January 2004.

Hebei is the Chinese region with the greatest concentration of Catholics, numbering over 1.5 million, most of whom belong to the underground Church.


Lead Book Review: Awakening of the dragon
China Shakes the World: the rise of a hungry nation

James Kynge
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £18.99
Tablet bookshop price £17.10.

This is the best type of reporter’s book. Through direct observation and interviews, James Kynge captures the awesome global phenomenon that is modern China. And from these “live” experiences he draws thought-provoking conclusions. His subject is a country whose current rulers derive their legitimacy not from revolutionary credentials but from a persistently booming economy over which they more or less preside. However, such are the population pressures that even annual growth of between 9 and 10 per cent cannot create the 24 million jobs needed each year. “The officials working behind the high walls of their leadership compound in Beijing feel trapped in an endless employment crisis,” he writes. They are engaged in a ceaseless struggle to feed their country’s colossal appetite, which explains the often brutal impact that China Inc. is having on the rest of the world.

Kynge is eminently well placed to chart the rise and rise of Asia’s greatest tiger. A fluent Mandarin speaker, he first went to China as a student and, since graduating, has lived on the mainland or nearby. From 1998 to 2005, he was China bureau chief for the Financial Times, a period when he saw the country emerge as “an issue of daily international importance”. He dates this change to early 2004, when Chinese demand for scrap metal led to the theft of manhole covers as far afield as Kuala Lumpur, Scotland and Chicago.

The author begins his account with a striking image: the scarred earth in Dortmund where one of Germany’s largest steel mills once stood. It is now to be found on the lower Yangtze, shipped there, piece by piece, by one of those extraordinary entrepreneurs whom drastic economic change allows to flourish. Wen Shenrong, a former peasant, bought the German plant originally for scrap, but benefited from an upsurge in Chinese demand for steel. Ironically, such was its impact on global prices that it would have allowed the plant to make a handsome profit in its original location. “Every rags-to-riches story was different,” Kynge writes of the many nouveaux riches he meets, “but chance and hardship were the common denominators.”

He then takes us 1,250 miles up the Yangtze to Chongqing, a booming city far from the coastal areas normally associated with frenetic development. Kynge compares its expansion with that of Chicago in the nineteenth century – except that in population terms Chongqing is growing eight times as fast. By 2009, the reservoir being created by the Three Gorges Dam will stretch up to the city, allowing 7,000-tonne ocean-going ships to reach it. This is part of the extraordinary opening-up of China’s interior, typified by the building of the Qinghai-Tibet railway and the plans for a motorway system which by 2030 will be longer than that of the United States.

The impact of these domestic convulsions is being felt around the world. Last autumn, the “bra wars” brought home to the public the penetration of European markets by cheap Chinese textile exports. Kynge takes us behind the scenes, first in Italy, then in the American Midwest, for a more profound insight into the impact of China’s emergence as a global economic power. The first illegal Chinese immigrants arrived in the Tuscan town of Prato in the 1980s; most of them came from Wenzhou, a port south of Shanghai which Kynge describes as “probably the most entrepreneurial place on earth”. Having first served as a source of cheap labour for local textile factories, they set up on their own. Before long, they were doing their former bosses out of business. Now, nearly all parts of the production process have been contracted out to firms in Wenzhou, and the number of indigenous manufacturers has more than halved.

Rockford, Illinois, was once a centre of the American machine-tool industry, making such a contribution to the armed forces that the Soviet Union had it high on its list of targets for a nuclear strike. Its manufacturing base has been hollowed out by low-cost Chinese competition and former employees forced to seek poorer-paid and less secure jobs in the service sector. By a cruel irony, China’s influence is evident at both ends of this process: the cheap imports which did for machine tools have benefited Wal-Mart, the owner of a huge discount store in the eastern suburbs of Rockford, which is buying more and more of its goods from Chinese suppliers.

Having graphically illustrated China’s strengths, Kynge devotes his last four chapters to examining its weaknesses. The first is the degradation of the environment. This, as Mark Elvin has shown in his book The Retreat of the Elephants, has been going on for centuries but is much more acute since the Communist revolution. Eroded land, polluted water and foul air are a fragile basis for a country that aspires to challenge American dominance both in Asia and beyond. Second, there is what the author calls “the glaring mismatch” between economic transformation and political stagnation. In contrast to India, China lacks the democratic checks and balances that would enable the efficient regulation of its breakneck growth. The inevitable consequence of the Communist monopoly of power is corruption. Indeed, Kynge believes that the lucrative venal network encompassing local government officials and businessmen is the biggest single block to political reform.

The mismatch adversely affects China’s image overseas, as was shown in the abortive attempt last year by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to acquire America’s Unocal; its rival bidder, Chevron, delivered a knock-out blow by pointing out that CNOOC was virtually an arm of the Chinese Government. That ugly political face, evident in internal repression and alliances with tyrannical regimes, has led Chinese companies to “disguise” their nationality by acquiring foreign brands, whether the personal computer unit of IBM or the French TV-maker Thomson.

A third weakness is China’s demographic profile, which, thanks to the one-child-per- family policy, is a good deal less healthy than that of America, let alone other Asian countries. As Kynge puts it, the Chinese may well grow old before they are rich.

These are formidable barriers to China’s vaulting ambition. Yet against them must be set what the author calls “the prodigious strength of its human capital”. Released in the 1980s by Deng Xiaoping, it has only recently begun to demonstrate its earth-shaking potential.

Simon Scott Plummer


Chinese Diocese Remembers Its Martyrs
Looks Back, and Ahead, at 150th Anniversary

ROME, JUNE 11, 2006 ( The 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Chinese Diocese of Cangzhou helped to stimulate the Catholic community's missionary effort, said diocesan representatives.

Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, in the province of Hebei, opened the anniversary ceremonies last month, reported Eglises d'Asie, an agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris.

A key event took place in the Catholic cemetery of Xianxian, where a small monument was recently erected in memory of the diocese's founders. Buried in the cemetery are five French bishops, a Chinese bishop and many Chinese priests and foreign missionaries.

All their tombs were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976.

Using the cathedral's paschal candle to light a 2-meter torch, the bishop appealed to priests and faithful to continue the missionary endeavor undertaken in the region more than 150 years ago.

In a pastoral letter last January, Bishop Li, 44, a prelate accepted by both Rome and Beijing, invited the diocesan faithful to prepare for this jubilee.


The French missionaries who "brought to this land the seeds of light and truth" founded the diocese in 1856.

"Today, the hour has come to write new pages of the history of our diocese," wrote the bishop. "Animated by an unbreakable spirit, we have inherited from our predecessors the seed of the Good News."

Accompanied by saints' relics, including those of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for five months the torch will go from parish to parish, symbolizing the light of Christ spread throughout the region. The torch will be returned to the cathedral Oct. 15.

In early October, an assembly will be held of representatives of the diocese, culminating with the baptism of 150 catechumens, and, on Oct. 12-13, a university colloquium will take place on evangelization.

Known for its numerous priestly and religious vocations, the Diocese of Cangzhou has more than 200 parishes and 75,000 faithful.

The bishop is assisted by some 100 priests and 227 women religious. About 80 seminarians are studying in the diocese's intermediate seminary, before attending the regional seminary of Shijiazhuang.

The Holy See established the diocese in 1856, splitting the Catholic mission of Tcheli in three territories. The southeastern Vicariate of Tcheli was entrusted to the French Jesuits and, in 1924, it took the name Vicariate of Xianxian.

Elevated to the rank of diocese in 1946, Xianxian was renamed Cangzhou in 1981.

Fourteen of China's 120 martyrs, canonized in Rome in October 2000, were from the Diocese of Xianxian during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Four priests and 5,153 faithful died as a result of the rebellion directed against the Western presence in China.


Cardinal Zen on China
"Numerous Nameless Heroes of the Church"

MILAN, Italy, JUNE 5, 2006 ( Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong is the latest recipient of the Defensor Fidei prize, conferred annually by the Italian review Il Timone.

The cardinal was chosen for the Defender of the Faith award, in part, because "he has been a faithful witness of the Gospel of Christ; he has looked after and made himself the guarantor of all Chinese Catholics," the review said.

On receiving the award, the cardinal granted an interview in which he explained that "the color red that I wear means the will of a cardinal to shed his own blood. But it is not my blood which has been shed; it is the blood and tears of numerous nameless heroes of the official and underground Church, who suffered for being faithful to the Church."

Q: How many nameless heroes are there of the Church in China?

Cardinal Zen: Some have tried to make this calculation but it seems impossible to me to give an exact number.

The only certain thing is that there have been very many. Many died in prison, in concentration camps and in forced labor. Many others died of serious sicknesses contracted in prison.

There are also those who have survived 20-30 years in prison and tortures; they too are martyrs. It is a form of modern martyrdom. It is not crucifixion or immediate violent death but a very long suffering, endured in many years of isolation.

There are people who entered a prison or concentration when they were younger than 20 and left when they were already elderly and with ruined health.

I am thinking of many youths of the Legion of Mary, who went to prison in Shanghai in the '50s, the majority laymen rather than priests or nuns, who do not have a family to think about. And yet, I have seen many of them leave the prisons with joy and serenity: a great testimony.

But we must not forget the sufferings of the families either. Imagine parents who see a child snatched from them, without ever again knowing where he is or what befell him.

Q: One often hears that the situation has improved today.

Cardinal Zen: It depends what is meant. No doubt the Chinese regime -- which has more exchanges with the outside today and is more observed -- must be more careful, less brutal.

For example, bishops who are arrested don't go to prison but to isolated places; their detention is not as long. This does not deny the fact that the two bishops of Baoding have disappeared and their whereabouts are unknown.

I would say, however, that the most important evolution is happening within the official Church itself, with an ever clearer communion with the Pope.

And one sees that, when the priests are united, even the regime must give way, as demonstrated by the appointments of Shanghai and Xian: proposed by the Pope but formally chosen by the local clergy, so that the government was not able to say anything.

Q: Also in your Diocese of Hong Kong, you are often in the limelight because of your firm position in defense of freedom and democracy.

Cardinal Zen: In Hong Kong the situation is obviously different. We have never had persecution as in the rest of China.

Here the main enemy is secularism. Despite this, our Church in Hong Kong maintains its own vitality and we have an average of 2,000 baptisms a year.

After 1997, with the return of Hong Kong to China, the situation has changed and the Church has had the duty to defend the weakest and the poor. Furthermore, it is the Church that teaches us to be concerned for the whole man; we are called to put the leaven of humanity in social relations.

Q: You have created a reputation for yourself of being hard, of openly confronting the Chinese regime without much circumlocution. Is this the right strategy to deal with Beijing?

Cardinal Zen: I have never premeditated how I will act. In fact, I have intervened strongly on two issues: the first to defend the canonization of the Chinese martyrs, held on October 1, 2000.

The government invented a letter signed by all the Chinese bishops protesting this canonization. But it was false; the government knew that the vast majority of bishops did not agree. So I intervened harshly to unmask this attempt to discredit the Pope.

My other intervention was on the issue of democracy, more precisely on religious freedom. Beijing has already openly violated the "Basic Law" [Hong Kong's mini-Constitution] and has tried to hinder religious freedom. We Catholics, though a minority, have become parents of the whole people, a point of reference. This is how the demonstration was born that took half a million citizens to the streets.

Q: Do you think that China might soon be "resigned" to open a true dialogue with the Holy See and abandon its prejudices?

Cardinal Zen: I think so. Today China sends many people abroad, whether or not of the government.

Little by little, they realize that, in the rest of the world, countries have no problem accepting the Pope's naming of bishops, that this does not contradict love for the homeland or being good citizens. In this way, many problems might be surmounted.


Two Chinese Churches? Or One?
| An Interview with Fr. Daniel Cerezo, Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus |
 Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D.

On a typically hot and humid summer afternoon I walked through the crowded streets of Taipei to a small Catholic chapel under the care of an Order of missionaries not known by most Americans. I was welcomed at the front door by the Italian pastor, Fr. Consonni Paulo, and directed to the fourth floor where the four priests in residence live in humble rooms. Once there, Fr. Daniel Cerezo, from Spain, offered me a cup of coffee and a biscuit, then showed me to his office. A poster of the saints of China hung behind him and an article about a recently deceased bishop in Mainland China was on his desk. The bishop, one in the "open Church," was his friend. The four missionary priests were invited by the bishop in Taipei several years ago to run a small church in the Jen Ai area of Taipei. They are Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, an Order founded by Saint Daniel Comboni, a holy laborer in the Lord’s vineyard in Africa. Asia is a long way from Africa, but the sons of St. Comboni are now among the few Orders that still bring the Catholic faith into China.

Fr. Cerezo is in an uncommon position; he associates with Catholic bishops, clergy, and faithful in both state-registered and unregistered communities and he is well acquainted with the situation of the Church in China. He speaks warmly of their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady, and St. Joseph. I was honored that he was agreeable to chatting with me about his impressions of what is happening among the Catholic community in Mainland China, persecuted as it is under what is still an ideologically Communist state.

Two Chinese Churches?

The first question I asked Fr. Cerezo was concerning terms. I asked him if it is correct to refer to "two Churches" in China, one that is "underground" and another that is state-sponsored, often called the "open Church." He said that this is an inappropriate distinction, noting that despite their differences both are persecuted parts of one Chinese Church. Rather, it is better to refer to these two parts as "communities," one that is registered with the state and one that is not. As simple as this answer seems, it is much more complex than it initially sounds.

In 1949, all of China effectively came under Communist control. From 1949 to 1977 (when the Cultural Revolution ended) the Catholic Church underwent its worst persecutions in China. Catholic dispensaries, schools, hospitals, and orphanages were taken over by the state, and several cathedrals were leveled. Seeking to remove the Catholic faithful from the aegis of the Pope the government created the "Patriotic Church" in 1957. Since that time most world media, including the Chinese media, has referred to "two Churches" in China — the "underground" Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), or the "open Church." The "open Church" is overseen by the Religious Affairs Bureau and is ostensibly independent from outside political influences. This situation became even more complex when Pope Pius XII excommunicated any bishop who registered with the state. Most of the bishops, therefore, went "underground," choosing to preserve their explicit loyalty to Rome and the Holy Father. Fr. Cerezo says that the line between these two communities has grown increasingly vague in recent years. In fact, neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI has ever referred to the "two Churches" in China, but have instead spoken of the Chinese Church in the singular.

It is better, says Fr. Cerezo, to refer to China as "one divided Church with two communities" that still have differences. We may accurately distinguish the two communities, Fr. Cerezo suggests, as "registered," or "state-sanctioned," and "unregistered," or operating outside of the CCPA. The relationship between the two communities is strained in some provinces, such as Hebei, Fujian, Zhejiang, Heilongjiang, and Jiangxi. In these areas there are unregistered Catholics who understandably feel that they have suffered for the Church by refusing any affiliation with the Communist-run state. But there is a growing distinction in China between the government and the Party, and Fr. Cerezo notes that there are no Catholic bishops, in either the registered or unregistered communities, who are members of the Communist Party, since one cannot be a believer and be a member of the Communist Party. Both communities are aware of this problem. But there are, unfortunately, a few registered bishops who are quite involved with China’s government. At this point of our conversation Fr. Cerezo leaned back in his chair and said, "Look, the younger priests and bishops in both communities are less and less interested in the politics between the two communities, and more motivated to teach the faith." He recalled that there are cases where clergy from the registered community live with clergy from the unregistered community.

The government’s reaction to the existence of unregistered churches is varied. There are some areas where, if an illegal (unregistered) Catholic church is established, the local officials immediately destroy the building and disband the community. In other areas, however, there are prominent unregistered Catholic churches that are simply ignored by officials and are allowed to exist as a parish without interference. While there is room for optimism about the lessening tension in China between Catholics of the registered and unregistered communities, there remain several disheartening challenges facing the Church. Fr. Cerezo notes that the Chinese Church is still persecuted by the government. Being Catholic in China is to accept certain persecution; all Chinese Catholics are martyrs to some degree. In extreme cases, there are still imprisonments in China. Despite the Chinese government’s slowly growing religious leniency, open loyalty to the Pope remains unacceptable and is seen as a threat to China’s political hegemony.

Following Catholic Morality in a Communist Context

While the media appears to be occupied mostly with the state of the unregistered and registered Church in China, there are larger issues that are often ignored. The Church is ultimately not a political institution; it is a religious one, which proclaims its greatest fidelity to its divine founder and his teachings. When the Chinese Church is viewed this way, the two communities seem to melt together into one tragically persecuted community of faithful who must struggle to maintain even the most basic Catholic moral teachings in a society that is categorically opposed to the Church’s traditional views.

I asked Father Cerezo how Chinese Catholics maintain their fidelity to Church moral teachings in a country that has illegalized having more than one child and enforces this law with harsh penalties. Refusing to use birth control is itself a punishable offense, but becoming pregnant when one already has a child can result in more serious punishments — having one’s electricity turned off, losing one’s salary, being placed in confinement, or being forced to have an abortion. To violate China’s one-child policy is to jeopardize one’s own safety and the safety of your family. This, says Fr. Cerezo, is one of the most painful aspects of being Catholic in China today, regardless of whether one attends Mass at a registered or unregistered church.

There are areas in China, however, where the local government overlooks its one-child law and allows Catholics to have several children. Fr. Cerezo informed me of an almost entirely Catholic village that is centered in the activities of the Catholic faith. For example, bells projected on loud speakers inform the local inhabitants when Mass is being said. In this village Catholic parents have several children, as many as six, unbothered by the local authorities. While such situations are rare, there are villages in Mainland China that are still able to openly follow the moral teachings of the Church. In more urban settings, however, the Chinese government is less willing to tolerate religious activity that openly contradicts Party lines, and Catholics who move to or live in large cities cannot adhere to the Church’s moral teachings concerning birth control and abortion without danger of legal punishment. It is simply untrue that Catholics who attend registered churches are unaware or unwilling to follow moral teachings, but, as Fr. Cerezo says, officially registered Catholic clergy must walk a narrow and dangerous path regarding how they teach and enforce the Church’s moral views. Their homilies must not openly contradict the state.

Catholicism in China’s Urban Centers

One of Fr. Cerezo’s concerns is for those Chinese who move away from small Catholic villages to large urban settings, where, as he puts it, the three greatest pressures are joining the Party, finding lucrative employment, and meeting a good boyfriend or girlfriend. It is difficult for these Catholics to remain connected to a spiritual system that causes tension and conflict with the social expectations of the majority of his or her countrymen. In addition, moving out of the routine of a Catholic-centered village lifestyle into the economically burgeoning materialistic culture of modern China is a shock that many young Catholics cannot endure without serious hardship, sometimes even loss of faith. China’s recent economic successes have not come without a growing sense of materialism. When I was last in Beijing I made a habit of asking people what they believed in, and the most common answer was, "Wo xin wo; wo xin qian" (I believe in myself and I believe in money). Yet even in China’s materialistic urban centers, such as Beijing and Shanghai, deeply devoted Catholics fill churches and cathedrals every Sunday.

Fr. Cerezo described the inspiring spiritual lives of most Chinese Catholics, who fill their lives with traditional devotions despite the ideological and economic pressures they face every day. He recounted that the three most popular devotions in Mainland China are to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady, and St. Joseph. These traditional devotions are part the core identity of Chinese Catholics, and in addition to these, Fr. Cerezo notes that most Chinese Catholics pray the Holy Rosary daily. I mentioned to him that recent surveys revealed that a large number of American Catholics expressed their disbelief in the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. Fr. Cerezo says that this is almost unheard of in the Chinese Church. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is particularly strong in China, and children are raised to display their adoration for God in the Eucharist during Holy Mass.

Another inspiring aspect of Fr. Cerezo’s experience of Christianity in China is how native Chinese sometimes respond to the Gospel. One early missionary method was to approach catechesis similarly to how it has been handled in Western countries — with a book that begins with an explanation of the Blessed Trinity. Such an abstract approach, according to Fr. Cerezo, is not a particularly effective way to catechize the Chinese. Rather, in his Order, missionaries begin by teaching the Gospels, focusing specifically on Jesus’ parables. He told me of one instance when a woman began to weep while reading the words of Jesus, and when asked why she was crying she simply responded that she had never heard of such charity and compassion before. Such catechetics have effectively spread Christ’s message of love to new Chinese members of the Church in China.

China’s Future Catholics?

Finally, I asked Fr. Cerezo where the Chinese Church is headed, a question I knew would be difficult to answer. To this question he reminded me that the Chinese Church is becoming less divided, and that using divisive terms such as "underground" and "open" do not help the situation. It does not help to suggest that non-Chinese Catholics should take sides, choosing either the "underground," or "faithful" Church, and the "open," or "Communist" Church. Both communities include the Pope in their prayers during Holy Mass and both communities are cherished by the Vatican.

However, this is not to say that there are no longer conflicts between the registered (CCPA) community and Rome; there are often serious tension, to be sure. But the majority of China’s registered bishops, according to reliable sources, have either the explicit or implicit support of the Vatican. This was not the case just a decade ago. The Vatican’s approval of registered bishops is not at all a "betrayal" of the unregistered bishops who have suffered, and continue to suffer persecution, under China’s current government. Rather, the lines between the two communities are growing increasingly unclear. Both communities are persecuted. Both seek the Lord in a hostile environment. Both, with a few exceptions in the registered Church, seek explicit ties with the See of St. Peter.

As I finished my cup of coffee in Fr. Cerezo’s Taipei office, he leaned forward in his chair and said that the goal of the Chinese Church, beyond its dissolving divisions, is to narrate the story of the compassionate Jesus — to love the poor and be a beacon of Christ’s message in a country desperately in need of the Gospel. It is time to stop speaking of "two" Churches in China, and begin acknowledging that there is really only one suffering Church, struggling to love God and, in turn, bring his love into a land that seems more and more distracted by its pursuit of material success.

Related Articles:

• Catholicism and Buddhism | Anthony E. Clark and Carl E. Olson
• Worshipping at the Feet of the Lord | Anthony E. Clark

Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. is assistant professor of Asian history at the University of Alabama.

He did his doctoral studies at the University of Oregon, where he studied Chinese history, philosophy, and religion. His more recent research has centered on East/West religious dialogue. He has also been researching the history of Catholic martyrs in China.

Dr. Clark has presented papers at numerous academic conferences and has also been a guest on "EWTN Live."


Beijing Asking for Halt to Illicit Ordinations
Government Pressuring Patriotic Association, Says Cardinal Zen

ROME, JUNE 2, 2006 ( The bishop of Hong Kong revealed that the Chinese government has asked the Patriotic Association to stop illicit episcopal ordinations, reported AsiaNews.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said this Wednesday, after taking possession of his titular Church in Rome, referring to the two episcopal ordinations performed without papal consent on April 30 and May 2.

The cardinal added that the Patriotic Association "was fomenting dissent between the Chinese government and the Vatican," but was "defeating itself" in doing so.

The Chinese government permits religious practice in the country only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau, and under the control of the Patriotic Association, whose statute includes the establishment of a national Church separated from the Holy See.

Thus there is a difference between the "official" state-approved Church and the faithful who wish to obey the Pope directly as members of the "underground" Church.

"The Chinese government has warned Liu Bainian," the Patriotic Association's secretary-general, that, "should ordinations continue, links will be completely severed" with Beijing, said the cardinal.

He also said that he could not tell whether the Chinese government would ever allow Pope Benedict XVI to visit the country.

No special treatment

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, said in an interview with the Romanian newspaper Ziua that "as in every other country in the world, the Church is not asking for any privileges in China; it only wants the right to organize itself as it sees fit," reported AsiaNews.

The Church's right to appoint bishops "is established in canon law and does not in any way, shape or form get in the way of how the Chinese state is organized," the prelate said.

By the same token, "China's political authorities should not interfere in the internal organization of the Church, most notably in how it selects its bishops," he said.

Archbishop Lajolo also referred to the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, noting that "it would improve social peace among the Chinese populations since the latter would no longer be torn between forced obedience to the so-called Patriotic Church and membership in the one Catholic Church in communion with the Pope, Successor to the Apostle Peter, Vicar of Christ."


China Overstepping on Ordinations, Says Cardinal
Prelate Responds to Government Plea to Prevail Upon Vatican

HONG KONG, MAY 11, 2006 ( Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun cautioned Chinese authorities that to arrogate to themselves the right to ordain Catholic bishops is not good for the country.

The cardinal was responding today to a request from China's foreign ministry commissioner, Lu Xinhua.

At a press conference Wednesday, Lu urged the cardinal to "persuade the Vatican to accept the conditions of the Chinese government to establish diplomatic ties in a correct and comprehensive manner, respecting the 'one-China' principle by severing ties with Taiwan and not using religion to meddle in its internal affairs."

Cardinal Zen responded in a note that he is "bound to do whatever is beneficial for my nation. However, if Beijing's position is to take over the authority of the ordaining of bishops, and to maintain a Patriotic Association that surpasses the bishops, these would do no good at all to the country, and would not be accepted by the majority of the clergy and the [Chinese] faithful."

"I love my country as much as my Church and I do hope they achieve a 'win-win agreement,' so that genuine religious freedom will be secured and, at the same time, harmony will be maintained in the society," added the prelate.

Prayer campaign

The Chinese government permits religious practice in the country only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau, and under the control of the Patriotic Association, whose statute includes the establishment of a national Church separated from the Holy See.

The recent illicit ordinations have triggered a prayer campaign, which has reached global proportions.

AsiaNews, an agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, reported today that the three Asian cardinals elevated by Benedict XVI, as well as parishes, convents, retired priests, associations, families and faithful have joined the campaign.

This prayer is joined to that of the "underground" Church, to implore for the priests and bishops of the "official" Church who are being pressured by the Patriotic Association to cut their ties with the Pope.


Only One Church in China, Says Cardinal Zen
Responds to Government Statement in Wake of Illicit Ordinations

HONG KONG, MAY 10, 2006 ( Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, responding to statements from the Beijing government, says that "in China there is only one Catholic Church, and all want to be led by the Pope."

The statement from the archbishop of Hong Kong is the latest development in communications between China and the Church in the wake of two episcopal ordinations performed without the Pope's consent on April 30 and May 2.

On May 4, Vatican spokesman Joaqu?n Navarro Valls described the ordinations as "a grave wound to the unity of the Church" and "a grave violation of religious freedom."

The AsiaNews agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions reported that the Vatican's statement was criticized in turn on May 6 by the Chinese Religious Affairs Bureau.

AsiaNews quoted the Religious Affairs Bureau as saying that it seeks "frank and sincere dialogue with the Vatican," and points out that there is an "urgent need" to choose new bishops for 40 dioceses with vacant sees.

In addition, the government bureau asserts that for more than a half-century bishops have been chosen and consecrated autonomously in the Asian country.

Cardinal Zen denied these and other points in his written statement.

Papal approval

"In the last 20 years, at the end of this 'half-century,' in the official Church, the importance of bishops being appointed by the Pope was gradually recognized by all," he explained.

The cardinal continued: "All episcopal candidates 'elected' by the Council of Chinese Bishops" -- a sort of episcopal conference not approved by the Vatican -- "and recognized by the Religious Affairs Bureau, send to the Holy See their request to be approved by the Pope -- and they know it is necessary. It is only after they get the Pope's approval that they receive consecration."

Cardinal Zen added: "Between the Holy See and the Chinese government, there is no accord. This is why we hope that in talks between China and the Vatican; it will be possible to find an agreement acceptable to both."

"They want bishops, but they do not want the Pope's appointment and approval," the cardinal observed. "In this way, can the Church still call itself truly a Catholic Church?"

A bishop of the "official" state-approved Church told AsiaNews that the two candidates of the recent illicit ordinations were under pressure and that some of the ordaining bishops were deceived, having been told that approval had been obtained from the Holy See.


Vatican Statement on Illicit Ordinations in China

"A Grave Violation of Religious Liberty"  (May 4, 2006)

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2006 ( Here is the statement issued today by Joaquin Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, in regard to the recent episcopal ordinations in China.

* * *

I can inform you of the position of the Holy See regarding the episcopal ordination of the priests Joseph Ma Yinglin and Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, last Sunday, April 30, in Kunming (province of Yunnan) and Wednesday, May 3, in Wuhu (province of Anhui).

The Holy Father has learned of the news with profound displeasure, since an act so relevant for the life of the Church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out in both cases without respecting the requirements of communion with the Pope.

It is a grave wound to the unity of the Church, for which severe canonical sanctions, as it is known, are foreseen (cf. Canon 1382 from the Code of Canon Law).

According to the information received, bishops and priests have been subjected to -- on the part of entities external to the Church -- strong pressures and to threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, besides, contrary to their conscience.

Various prelates have refused to give in to similar pressures, while others were not able to do anything but submit with great interior suffering. Episodes of this kind produce lacerations not only in the Catholic community but also in the internal conscience itself.

We are therefore facing a grave violation of religious liberty, notwithstanding that it is sought to present the two episcopal ordinations as a proper act to provide the pastors for vacant dioceses.

The Holy See follows with attention the troubled path of the Catholic Church in China and, even aware of some particularities of such a path, believed and hoped that similar, deplorable episodes by now would belong to the past.

She considers that now it is her precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the entire Catholic Church, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to that of those bishops and priests who were seen obligated, against conscience, to take part or to participate in the episcopal ordination, which neither the candidates nor the consecrating bishops want to carry out without having received the pontifical mandate.

If the news is true that other episcopal ordinations are to take place in the same manner, the Holy See would like to underline the need for respect for the liberty of the Church and for the autonomy of its institutions from whatever external interference, and sincerely wishes that such unacceptable acts of violence and inadmissible constrictions are not repeated.

The Holy See has, on various occasions, stressed her willingness for honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities for the purpose of finding a solution that would satisfy the needs of both parties. Initiatives such as the above-mentioned do not favor such dialogue but instead create new obstacles against it.


Chinese dissidents speak out        
By Gerald Mercer  Thursday, 09 March 2006

Despite economic progress and a rising standard of living, the Chinese people still lack political and religious freedom. This past January, Jiao Guobiao was one of many of China’s citizens who embraced Christianity. His baptism took place at a small unregistered Protestant house church in Beijing. Primarily, it was an important spiritual event for Mr Jiao and his family.

But it may also be seen in a broader context. Firstly, Jiao is professor of journalism at Beijing University. In March 2004 he achieved world wide notice when he launched a 7,500 word broadside against the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party. The department controls censorship of Chinese media.

Professor Jiao accused the Propaganda Department of stifling press freedom and political reform in China. Predictably, his internet article was swiftly erased from Chinese websites. In 2005, he was removed from lecturing at Beijing University, and spent some time in the US before returning to China.

Secondly, the house church Jiao has joined has other prominent writers and lawyers as members. One is Gao Zhisheng, whose Sheng Zhi Law firm has handled a number of high-profile human rights cases, involving labour activists, rural rights campaigners, and the detention of Falun Gong practitioners. In November last year, his law firm was ordered to suspend its operations for 12 months.

Unsurprisingly, this church is under scrutiny by the authorities. Known as the Beijing Ark Church, it was raided twice during January by the Public Security Bureau.

In February, I had an opportunity to meet two members of the Chinese Writers’ Union, PEN, Yu Jie and Wang Yi, who were visiting Australia on a brief lecture tour. During a two-hour interview, the connection with the Beijing Ark Church emerged, almost in passing. Yu Jie is a founder of the church, and his faith strengthens his advocacy of human rights and democracy in China.

With its high profile membership, the Beijing Ark Church appears to be somewhat unusual. And in any case, the struggle for human rights in China is by no means confined to Christians. But the example is interesting.

Yu Jie is 32 and already an internationally known writer and commentator. His books sell well in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. He is a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, and an advocate of political reform of China’’s political system.

For both men, overseas travel to give talks critical of the Chinese authorities carries risks. On a previous occasion, Yu was interrogated for 12 hours on his return. More than 60 intellectuals have been jailed for similar actions. Both believe that they are helped by their strong international reputations, which deters the Chinese authorities from taking harsh action against them. But they consider themselves hostages, and their ability to travel could be withdrawn at any time.

Mr Yu is critical of Western countries for deliberately overlooking the human rights problem faced by the Chinese people. He says China is still ruled by a one-party clique which uses terror against their own people, such as crushing peasants campaigning for land rights. He is also critical of France and Germany who recently considered lifting restrictions on European arms sales to China. Yu says: ““China does not need European armaments. China needs better education and medical systems. It is only the CCP that needs armaments, in order to threaten Taiwan and to terrorise their own people.

“Many Western leaders and business people believe that since China’s economy has opened up, democracy will naturally follow. There is no evidence of that. It could be said that large scale Western investment has actually helped strengthen the CCP.”

Yu singled out the large American retail chain Walmart. Some of the products it sells he claims are made by prisoners in lao-gai labour camps. Another serious human rights issue is the availability of organ transplants to Westerners, using organs from executed prisoners.

Wang Yi, also 32, is a university lecturer and a senior member of Chinese PEN. He says that the CCP has deprived peasants of land rights, and denied compensation for land seized. China’’s citizens do not have the right of freedom of association, and cannot join a trade union, other than the government-run phoney union.

And while Western investment assists the CCP to stay in power, members of the ruling party gain personally, with the children of many of the top leadership heading up large corporations.

Mr Wang made an interesting comment about North Korea, and the five-power talks over North Korea’s threatened nuclear weapons. China is the convenor of the talks, and the main supplier to North Korea of oil and food aid. Many commentators believe Beijing is attempting to coax the North into an agreement. Wang thinks that Beijing is really using its links with North Korea as a bargaining chip with Western countries.

One positive move within Chinese society is the slow development of human rights under China’s existing laws as lawyers and journalists act courageously, to “push the envelope” in response to unjust situations highlighted by the protests of ordinary people. Wang sees the incremental establishment of rights as the best prospect for reform. He sees a precedent in the work of human rights activists in Taiwan, as it moved from autocracy to democracy.

Both dissidents said that the censorship situation was getting worse, as the Central Propaganda Department sacked outspoken writers, or closed papers. Two Western internet companies, Google and Yahoo!, have complied with restrictions imposed by the regime.

Meanwhile the growing number of protests, and the tightening of security in major cities means that a violent upsurge because of the lack of political reform cannot be ruled out.

They expect that the book Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday will have a major impact. While the regime pays only lip service to Marxism and Mao Zedong, its legitimacy stems directly from Mao. There has been no denunciation of Mao, as Stalin was denounced in the Soviet Union. A Chinese translation of part of the book is already available on the Internet, and a print version is being published in Hong Kong.

Both dissidents said that Christians, Protestant and Catholic, collectively number around 70 million. They are still subject to persecution and harassment in various parts of the country.

Both men radiated a remarkable attitude of intellectual rigour, courage, and above all, hope, perhaps best conveyed by some words written by Yu Jie in 2004. “as a writer full of passion for freedom, and a Christian with faith in God, I firmly believe that China is not a region abandoned by God, and that the Chinese people deserve a lifestyle better than servitude.”

Gerald Mercer is a Melbourne freelance journalist.


Bishop Sun Yuan Mo Is Mourned
Prelate, 85, Previously Spent 13 Years in Forced Labor

BEIJING, MARCH 8, 2006 ( A Vatican agency confirmed the death of Bishop Joseph Sun Yuan Mo, of the Chinese diocese of Linfen, in Shanxi province. He was 85.

Numerous faithful attended an afternoon Mass every day for six days after the prelate's death Feb. 23, according to a report today by the Fides agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The bishop had been seriously ill for years.

Intense cold and abundant snow did not hinder their attendance at the Feb. 28 funeral. More than 2,000 faithful, as well as all the priests of the diocese and three bishops of neighboring dioceses, attended to bid farewell to the "elderly and faithful witness of Christ," Fides said.

Joseph Sun Yuan Mo was born on Nov. 7, 1920, in Zhuangyuan, Hongdong district, 585 kilometers (360 miles) southwest of Beijing.

He entered the diocesan minor seminary at 15 and then studied philosophy and theology at the major seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1948.

After a few years of teaching at Fu Jen Catholic University in Beijing, he was sent to minister in the southern province of Guanxi.

"During the difficult period of the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976, he returned to the town where he was born," recalled Fides. "He was eventually arrested there and condemned to 13 years of forced labor for 'reeducation.'"

Years later, after his release, he resumed his ministry. Consecrated bishop, he was in charge of the pastoral care of the diocese, first as auxiliary and, since 1991, as ordinary. The diocese has 36 priests, 60 nuns and 30,000 Catholics.


Missionaries made in China        
By Gerald Mercer
Thursday, 23 February 2006

The economy is not the only thing that is booming in China. Religious fervour is pushing up against official restrictions and seeking opportunities abroad.

Suppose, for a moment, that a group of Chinese Protestant Christians –– business people, students and others –– are living in Wittenberg, Germany. That is the site of Martin Luther’’s famous attack (the 95 Theses) against the Catholic Church. Yet they know little or nothing of Luther and they have nothing to do with the local Lutheran synod. They are mainly an off-shoot of an unregistered church in Henan, and they use hymn sheets printed in Nanjing. They engage in missionary activity.

This speculative thought is merely an extension of what is happening today. Chinese Christian businessmen have already established their own churches or fellowships in most major European cities. Other religions, or quasi-religions like the Falun Gong, are also widely represented.

According to Hong Kong academic and churchman Dr Kim-Kwong Chan, the expansion of the Chinese economy into the world market will also have an impact on Chinese religious believers beyond the borders of China. Chinese emigration, legal or illegal, is considerable. In Dr Chan’’s view, the significance of this as the basis of missionary activity should not be underestimated. Dr Chan, who is the author of nine books, mostly on religion in China, is the executive secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council, and an ordained minister of a Christian evangelical church.

Large numbers

The numbers of Chinese Christians are not small. The Chinese government provides a figure of 16 million Protestants, although local and overseas experts claim there are at least 25 million. Some estimates are as high as 100 million.

The Catholic Church is divided between the Patriotic Church, which obeys government direction, and the underground Church, but there is a considerable cross-over between the two. The Patriotic Church has a membership of at least 12 million. As Dr Chan notes, this is much more than the number of Catholics in Ireland, and once ties with Rome are formally re-established, Chinese bishops and cardinals will play an important international part in the Catholic Church.

In the meantime in China, he says: “The influence of Christianity goes beyond the church compound and is also beginning to make an impact amongst intellectuals. More than 20 universities now offer courses in Christianity and most campuses in major cities have Christian fellowships.”

Writing in Religion, State & Society, Dr Chan claims that Protestant Christianity has mushroomed into an influential social force that can be felt, not only in almost all sectors of Chinese society, but also beyond China’s borders. One factor Dr Chan notes is that in the past, religion was a taboo subject. Now the public’’s thirst for religion is driving the availability of a whole range of religious related products.

“The market-driven publishing industry in China seems to have spotted the overwhelming demand from the public, mostly not religious believers, for books on religion. Currently books on religion, whether doctrinal or devotional, are seen everywhere in bookshops, which was not the case a decade ago; they are usually best sellers. Newspaper articles on religion, discussions on religion in Internet chat-rooms, religious names on commercial products, and religious music are commonly available to the public as people increasingly search for a transcendent meaning to life.”

Mere toleration

Dr Chan has analysed the current policy of the Chinese Communist Party towards religions. The CCP recognises that religion attracts massive numbers of followers, and may compete with the party in loyalty. The party attempts to contain religious activities within a defined area. “Religion is tolerated so long as it poses no threat to the ruling regime and no challenge to social institutions such as education and marriage.”

The government recognises only five religions in China: Daoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. These are supervised by a large bureaucracy, the Religious Affairs Bureau. Dr Chan believes the government will feel secure “so long as it feels religion is not getting out of hand and remains under government supervision and monitoring.”

Other religions are regarded as evil cults or folk religions, and are dealt with separately. There are officially 16 groups defined as evil cults, the best known of which is the Falun Gong. A special taskforce has been established within the Public Security Bureau to target evil cults.

Much has changed over the last quarter century. Dr Chan says that in the 1980s, virtually all religions in China were in survival mode, trying to re-emerge from the ruins in a hostile environment. After the haunting experiences of the Cultural Revolution, it was hard to imagine that they could conduct religious activities again. The 1990s were a period of consolidation as they built up their clerical ranks, reclaimed confiscated properties, and so on. Today things look more positive.

“Currently Chinese religious organisations are all heading for expansion, extending their influence into the secular sector by propagating their faith directly through various private means, and demonstrating their faith by reaching out into the community beyond the four walls of religious venues through social or charitable programmes. This form of silent witness is a subtle political defiance of the government’s policy of restricting religious activities within designated religious venues while yet remaining within legal boundaries, and may become a powerful means of extending religion into secular society.””

With widespread socio-economic upheaval and many people moving from the countryside into the industrialised cities, ““people tend to look for forms of permanency such as religion””. Although the official ideology comes from the CCP, this is not widely accepted. ““Religions have become an attractive realm where people facing changes can seek new meanings in life.””

How all this will develop in future is difficult to predict. The CCP does not appear to have the flexibility to deal with religious issues which have major social and international consequences. However, Dr Chan closes on an optimistic note, invoking the words of the Hungarian Jesuit, Father Laszlo Ladany, whose China News Analysis had a well-deserved reputation from the 1950s to the 1980s. In the last issue, Fr Ladany said that as far as China is concerned, we should “expect the unexpected”. Dr Chan hopes for some pleasant surprises.

Gerald Mercer is a freelance journalist in Melbourne, Australia.


China: Twenty Million Communists at Prayer

This is how many persons are thought to belong to the communist party and, at the same time, adhere to a religion. The official stance forbids it. But some think this is a mistake –– and are writing about it

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, February 10, 2006 –– When, last January 9, speaking to the diplomatic corps, Benedict XVI lamented the absence of religious liberty "in some states, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions," everyone thought of China.

But very few knew about a surprising article published just before this in an important Hong Kong magazine, which stated that some religious faith is believed and practiced –– in the more or less clandestine way –– by fully one-third of the members of the CCP, the Chinese communist party, or 20 million members out of a total of 60 million.

The news of the article was extensively covered by the magazine "Mondo e Missione" of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan.

The article appeared in the November 2005 edition, on pages 8-9, of the monthly magazine of sociopolitical analysis "Zhengming [Discussions]", which is printed in Chinese in Hong Kong and is distributed on the mainland only among highly placed leaders.

"Zhengming" cites statistics from the general secretariat of the CCP. According to these figures, 12 million members of the communist party in the cities participate in religious activities, 5 million of whom are regular practitioners, while there are 8 million in the countryside, of whom 4 million participate regularly.

A significant proportion of these are Christians, mostly Protestant. In some cases the entire family adheres to a religion. "Zhengming" writes:

"In Shijiazhuang, int the province of Hebei, thousands of party members maintain that going to church and participating in Mass constitutes an important part of their lives. Some members of medium to high level have created a 'church' in their homes in order to avoid trouble."

The data of the CCP list the provinces where the religious adherence of party members is most pronounced. Among these there are provinces where the Catholic Church is especially present, like Baoding, a stronghold of the underground Catholics.

"Zhengming" relates:

"During a recent meeting of the secretariat of the central committee, vice-president Zeng Qinghong revealed that the influence and infiltration of religion is more extensive, more deeply rooted, and more resistant than is the case with Western values. Furthermore, he stated that some of the high level leaders have proposed allowing religious faith and the communist creed to exist together within the party. Some maintain that religious faith can make society harmonious and stable and help it to progress, and so religion must be permitted to spread and the members of the CCP must be permitted to practice religion."

The leaders of the CCP have decided to react to this phenomenon. They are afraid, in fact, that this "will change the ideology of party members and lead to the disintegration of their political belief. The spirit of the party will tend to degenerate, and this will create all kinds of social and political crises in the party and in the country."

"Zhengming" reports that "on October 12, 2005, the central committee of the CCP approved the distribution of a document concerning the organizations and members of the party who are involved in, adhere to, and participate in religious activities."

The document delineates a five-point strategy, which the magazine sums up as follows:

"1. The organizations of the party, on whatever level, are not permitted under any sort of pretext to organize or participate in activities of a religious nature.

"2. Party members are not permitted to belong to religious organizations, including foreign religious organizations and activities. Particular situations must be examined by party committees on a provincial level.

"3. Those who already belong to religious organizations and participate in religious activities must, after receiving a warning, leave these immediately, suspend their religious practices and, on their own initiative, present a report.

"4. Anyone who participates in illegal and religious activities will be expelled and will be precluded from holding any post within or outside of the party. If illegal activities are involved, these will be investigated according to the law."

"Zhengming" follows these measures with its own comment:

"Marx said that religion is the opium of the people. This is the basis for the anti-religious policy of the CCP. But Engels said that the best way to help spread religion is to outlaw it. The Chinese communist party has turned a deaf ear to Engels' warning, and has always pursued a policy of hostility toward religion. [……] Among the three great religions of the world, the one that the CCP hates the most is Christianity, because it is in the closest contact with modern civilization. This is why Christianity is a religion that undergoes the most serious attacks. But it is precisely for this reason that Christianity is more deeply rooted in the hearts of believers, and also why their influence is increasingly more widespread."

In conclusion:

"It is no wonder that those who hold the power in the Chinese communist party are afraid of this phenomenon, because it is the premonition that their dominion is on the verge of crumbling: therefore they think that they must bring it to a halt and severely control it. But these measures, apart from making party members hide their religious activities, can only reinforce their religious faith and bring it about that more and more members of the party draw near to religion."

* * *

In regard to the report issued by the Hong Kong magazine –– which is generally held to be reliable and well-documented –– "Mondo e Missione" requested an analysis by an expert on China, Fr. Angelo Lazzarotto, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. Here are a few of his responses.

On the diffusion of religion in China:

"In the absence of statistics, there is no lack of analysts who speak of more than 300 million adherents, out of 1 billion, 300 million Chinese. The official Chinese publications themselves for some years now have not hesitated to advance the hypothesis that there could be more than 100 million believers in China, referring especially to Buddhism and folk religion. The Protestants of evangelical origin who are promoting themselves vigorously and confidently in China also give credence to inflated figures of the number of Christians."

On the anti-religious policy of the Chinese Communist Party:

"It must be noted that the document of the central committee of the CCP speaks of the 'corruption' that religious ideology is supposed to exercise on party organizations and members. That is, it is imagined that religious ideology corrodes the very nature of the materialist ideology at the party's foundation. It is not for nothing that the statutes of the CCP, while they have been modified in a variety of ways over the course of the decades, to the point of opening the door of the proletarian party to the entrepreneurs and capitalists themselves, have always remained intransigent in the matter of religion. The incompatibility between adhering to a faith and belonging to the apparatus destined to guide the country along the way of prosperity and greatness has never been brought into question. Those who are nostalgic for ideological purity thus do not hesitate to run to the ramparts and raise up new barriers every time there appears the danger of ‘‘infiltrations’’ capable of deforming the soul. But it must be admitted that the multiplication of these norms confirms that they are of little effect."

On the possibility for members of the communist party to adhere to a religious faith:

"The admission of vice-president Zeng Qinghong is significant, in that it shows that even the most highly placed leaders dare to speak of an hypothesis that, until now, seemed unthinkable. In reality, president Hu Jintao's intention, expressed in repeated assertions that he wants to foster the construction of a ‘‘harmonious society’’ in this phase of tumultuous economic growth in Chinese society, cannot be realized if the pathological mistrust of religion, which is today the occasion of much gratuitous violence, is not overcome. It must be remembered that the Chinese constitution, in article 36, assures all citizens of ‘‘freedom of religious belief.’’ And permitting the members of the CCP to enjoy all the constitutional liberties would make the party a more credible guide for the people of China."


The magazine of the Pontifical Council for Foreign Missions, in which the article was published in the February 2006 edition:

Even the "Beijing Review" Is Burning Incense

A follow-up editorial published in the "Beijing Review" last January 12 revived the discussion on the role of religion in China.

The "Beijing Review" is an official weekly magazine in English, intended for distribution abroad. Right from the title, it poses the question in problematic terms: "Do we need religious education?"

The author of the note is the magazine's director, Lii Haibo, who appears in the photo at the top of the article and provides for the readers his own e-mail address:

Lii Haibo begins with an observation:

"Against China’’s fast economic development, people’’s ethical quality as a whole seems to be stagnant and even on the decline. Money worship prevails, turning many into greedy and selfish person buckled by profits. Moral landscape is polluted and part of society is saturated by promptings to degeneracy."

And this leads him to a proposal:

"The point is that education is the key to the chain of problems. To clean and mend the contaminated moral landscape, the introduction of religious precepts may be necessary as a supplement to a comprehensive educational campaign that is imperative for China."


Focus on CHINA
A selection of articles from www.chiesa

China: Twenty Million Communists at Prayer
This is how many persons are thought to belong to the communist party and, at the same time, adhere to a religion. The official stance forbids it. But some think this is a mistake –– and are writing about it

Iran and China Also Fall under the Pope’’s Judgment
Benedict XVI did not cite them by name in his address to the diplomatic corps. But he clearly stated how he judges them: by the yardstick of truth and freedom. An interview with the bishop of Hong Kong

Rome Is Calling Beijing –– But the Connection Keeps Getting Interrupted
Signs of growing closeness between China and the Vatican alternate with sudden breakdowns. The four empty seats at the synod. The new bishop recognized by both the government and the pope. The invitation to the sisters of Mother Teresa. "La Civiltàà Cattolica" adds up the figures

New Bishops for Tomorrow’’s China
They have been approved by the government, and they have the tacit agreement of Rome. They are reconciling the two Churches, official and clandestine. But there is a great deal of caution at the Vatican over the future of Christianity in the Celestial Empire

China: A Cardinal’’s Flattery Doesn’’t Set Any Bishops Free
“Asia News” launches a campaign to free bishops and priests from prison. And this just as a book by Cardinal Etchegaray recounts the captivating China he saw on his four visits

Ruini Looks Ahead, and Raises an Alarm over China
More than Islamism and secularism, the pope's vicar says, the real threats for Christianity are biotechnology and the Asian civilizations. He recommends reading two authors: Habermas and Fukuyama

The Bishop of Xi ́an ́s Long March from Beijing to Rome
His name is Anthony Li Du ́an and he ́s bishop approved by the Chinese government. And yet he ́s extremely loyal to the pope (perhaps the secret "in pectore" cardinal chosen by John Paul II last year). Meanwhile, however, another Catholic bishop is thrown into prison

China and the Vatican: The Points of Disagreement
Truth, lies, and behind-the-scenes in the diplomatic row between Rome and Beijing, as recounted by the ex-director of the news agency "Fides," Bernardo Cervellera

The Shanghai Circle Rewards its Bishop - for Patriotic Accomplishments
The honoree is Michele Fu Tieshan, a Chinese bishop in dissent from Rome, strictly faithful to the Communist party and an enemy of religious rights

The Vatican and China. Bishop Zen ́s Anti-Diplomatic Battle
Secret talks between Rome and Beijing have restarted. The church ́s stronghold is Hong Kong ́s new bishop. But he ́s also the main obstacle to an accord

Cina. Un digiuno, sette documenti e settemila deportati
Ultime dalla Cina cristiana: una battaglia civile a Hong Kong con la Chiesa cattolica in prima fila e la scoperta di sette documenti top secret sulla persecuzione religiosa

8 marzo. Storie di donne a Dakar e Pechino
Storie entrambe politicamente scorrette. Riferite dal Vaticano. L ́una ha a che fare con l ́Islam, l ́altra con il diritto alla vita

George W. Bush missionario della fede. In Cina
Il presidente americano predica agli studenti della piùù prestigiosa universitàà di Pechino. E il Vaticano prende nota

Jiang Zemin dottore in teologia
"Ho letto la Bibbia, il Corano e gli scritti buddisti", ha detto il presidente della Cina, alla presenza di Bush. Ecco i retroscena di questa inattesa confessione

Nel Celeste Impero èè sempre Quaresima
E questi sono i suoi penitenti speciali: trentatre vescovi e sacerdoti perseguitati dal regime. Il Vaticano ne dàà la lista. E chiede di pregare per loro

Lo strano ritiro spirituale di Jiang Zemin e compagni
Svolta nella politica religiosa della Cina. Mano tesa ai cattolici clandestini ma niente pace con Roma. E quel veto su Andreotti e il cardinale...


In China, "Catholics Are Winning"
Interview With Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun

HONG KONG, JAN. 8, 2006 ( China's Communists are still vying for control of the hearts and minds of their countrymen, says Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Bishop Zen, 73, known as "the independent voice of the Catholic Church in China," speaks freely of the situation in his country.

Q: There are some who admire China for its impetuous economic development and others who see it as a threat to the world. From your vantage point, how do you see the country?

Bishop Zen: Beyond many analyses, there is a fact: There continues to be a very heavy yoke in China. The Communist Party wants to control everything, not just structures but also the minds and hearts of citizens.

Today the methods have changed a bit, but deep down the reality is the same. No one dares to really say what he thinks.

Take the case of Hong Kong: The Beijing government formally guarantees autonomy there; we are still free to make our voice heard. But day after day it is extending its control in a very clear and determined way.

However, I do not wish to appear too pessimistic. One can also free oneself from this yoke.

Q: To what are you referring?

Bishop Zen: To the Church, of course! My conviction, which I try to express in a submissive way because it could trigger a harsh reaction from Beijing, is that Catholics are winning. With patience and tenacity they are conquering significant areas of freedom.

The Communist government controls the structures, but no longer the hearts and minds of the faithful. After many years of forced separation in China, the Catholic Church in fact is now only one -- all want to be united to the Pope.

Q: The official and underground Churches are still different. What is lacking for full reconciliation?

Bishop Zen: As always, the obstacle is the control exercised by the party. I will explain.

The official Chinese Church is made up of two great structures, the episcopal conference and the Patriotic Association of Catholics, which in fact is the long arm of the Communist Party to control the Church.

For the past two years the episcopal conference has been without a president; after the death of the incumbent, they have been unable to find one they can "trust."

The head of the Patriotic Association, Bishop Michele Fu of Beijing, is sick and above all is much discredited in the eyes of the faithful. In a word, the two structures are without a head. The one in charge is Mr. Liu Bai Nie, the executive secretary of the Patriotic Association. But he is a boss who runs the risk of being left without a following.

Q: What happened?

Bishop Zen: Many bishops, appointed by the Beijing government, had no peace of heart and wanted to be recognized by the Holy See.

Beginning in the '80s, Pope John Paul II, with great generosity, accepted such petitions. At present 85% of the episcopate of the official Chinese Church has been legitimized by the Vatican.

Now the bishops that are not approved by Rome feel marginalized; they are rejected by the clergy and the faithful.

The novelty is that, whereas in the past the bishops already appointed by the government requested papal approval, now the candidates to the episcopate of the official Church are concerned about being appointed by the Holy See.

It is an interesting situation, but not lacking in risks, as the candidate chosen by the government is not always the Vatican's ideal name.

Q: The Holy See recently underlined its willingness to establish diplomatic relations with Communist China, severing relations with Taiwan and moving the Nuncio from Taipei to Beijing. Are we close to an historic agreement?

Bishop Zen: The universal Church is concerned about the millions of faithful in Communist China and is willing to take a very painful step.

We must explain to the faithful of Taiwan that it's not a betrayal, but a necessity imposed by circumstances. In a word, it isn't a decision that must be proclaimed hastily. Moreover, what will we be given in return? Is the Beijing government prepared to grant religious freedom? This is the question.

Q: What is your impression?

Bishop Zen: I see that, while the Vatican works for an agreement, the Chinese Communists aren't in any hurry. They would rather solve some problems as, for example, the episcopal appointments of many dioceses that are vacant.

And I have the impression that the Patriotic Association will try to place its men to counteract the appointments it has had to suffer in recent times, such as that of the auxiliary bishop of Shanghai.

I don't see an agreement around the corner; more time is needed.

Q: Is it true that Pope John Paul II asked you for help to realize a great desire -- that of visiting China?

Bishop Zen: It was the beginning of 1997. We spoke for a long time and the Holy Father did no more than repeat: I want to go to China!
I replied: But I can't do anything!

There was talk of a possible trip to Hong Kong for the closing of the Asian Synod, but the Beijing government immediately said no.


China's Long Lag in Religious Liberty
Reports Show Continued Repression

WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 19, 2005 ( China's long-standing restrictions on religious liberty came under fire from U.S. President George Bush during his trip to Asia this week. In a speech Wednesday in Kyoto, Bush said that the people of China had "legitimate" demands for more freedom of speech and religion, the Financial Times reported that same day.

Holding up Japan and Taiwan as examples of free and open societies, the U.S. president said the Chinese want "more freedom to express themselves, to worship without state control and to print Bibles and other sacred texts without fear of punishment."
In the lead-up to Bush's visit, two U.S. government reports drew attention to the lack of liberty in China. The first, published Oct. 11, came from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Under legislation facilitating China's accession to the World Trade Organization, Congress established the commission in 2000 to monitor human rights and the rule of law in that country.

The commission's 2005 annual report found "no improvement overall in human rights conditions in China over the past year, and increased government restrictions on Chinese citizens who worship in state-controlled venues or write for state-controlled publications."

The report noted, "Citizens who challenge state controls on religion, speech, or assembly continue to face severe government repression." The commission described the political system as "authoritarian" and controlled by the Communist Party. The party dictates the selection of both legislative and executive positions.

The annual report noted that after several scandals due to wrongful convictions, the government permitted public criticism of the judicial system. Yet, the government "continues to use administrative procedures and vaguely worded criminal laws to detain Chinese citizens arbitrarily for exercising their rights to freedom of religion, speech and assembly."


The U.S. commission also observed that Chinese authorities launched a campaign in 2005 to implement the new Regulations on Religious Affairs. This campaign has led to a tightening of controls over religious practice, particularly in ethnic and rural areas, "violating the guarantee of freedom of religious belief found in the new Regulation."

Conditions for Buddhist believers in Tibet have not improved either. The Communist Party "demands that Tibetan Buddhists promote patriotism toward China and repudiate the Dalai Lama, the religion's spiritual leader," the report states.

Repression also continues against Catholics. The commission calculated that Chinese authorities are detaining more than 40 unregistered clergy and have taken measures to tighten control of registered clergy and seminaries. Moreover, despite its stated desire to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the Chinese government has not altered its long-standing position that, as a precondition to negotiations, the Vatican must renounce a papal role in the selection of bishops and break relations with Taiwan.

Muslims are also under strict government control, particularly those belonging to the Uighur minority. All mosques must register with the state-run China Islamic Association. Their imams must be licensed by the state before they can practice, and must regularly attend "patriotic education" sessions.

Protestants haven't been spared either. The U.S. report observed that Chinese authorities continued their campaign of repression, begun in 2002. "Hundreds of unregistered Protestants associated with house churches have been intimidated, beaten or imprisoned," the report lamented.

Far from candid
On Nov. 9 the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published a series of findings and recommendations in a report titled, "Policy Focus on China." The document is based on an official visit made by USCIRF members in August.

The USCIRF representatives were able to visit China after several years of diplomatic effort by the U.S. government. They met with senior Chinese officials, as well as academics, lawyers, U.N. officials, as well as representatives of government-sanctioned Buddhist, Catholic, Taoist, Islamic and Protestant organizations.

The visit was not without its problems. The report noted that due to the constant presence of Chinese government officials, the discussions "were often far from candid." Officials were present at all meetings, including those with religious leaders and others who were not part of the government.

At one meeting, the report explained, the Catholic bishop from Shenyang, affiliated with the government- approved Catholic Patriotic Association, responded to a USCIRF question stating that he was aware of the harassment and arrest of neighboring Bishop Wei Jingyi, who was associated with the unregistered Catholic Church. The Chinese officials present at the meeting did not allow the remarks to be translated and immediately ended the bishop's presentation.

USCIRF Chair Michael Cromartie, when releasing the report, commented: "The commission continues to find that the Chinese government systematically violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, contravening both the Chinese Constitution and international human rights norms." So far, Cromartie noted, economic freedom, as some had hoped, has not led to more political freedom or human rights protections.

In the report the USCIRF observed that believers registered with one of the five patriotic religious associations do benefit from a "zone of toleration" that protects some religious practice and property. And Chinese officials stated that they have considered allowing Orthodox Christians, Jews, Mormons and Bahais to gain official recognition.

Even so, the officially recognized groups operate under strict controls. The government oversees such matters as selecting church leaders, the printing of materials, and the building or renovating of religious venues.

The registered groups have also accepted restrictions on what doctrines and traditions can be conveyed and taught. The USCIRF report tells of Christian leaders having to refrain from teachings involving the second coming of Jesus, divine healing, the practice of fasting, and the virgin birth. These doctrines or practices are considered by the government to be superstitious or contrary to Communist Party social policies.

In addition, the teaching of Catholic moral norms on such subjects as abortion, contraceptives and divorce "is forcefully suppressed as contradicting official Communist Party policy," the report noted.

Lack of constraints

Exacerbating the situation is the lack of an independent media and an independent juridical system. These factors, the USCIRF explained, contribute to the absence of effective constraints on political power, and the difficulty of obtaining redress for victims of human rights violations.

Even though there have been some recent legal and judicial reforms, improvements continue to be hindered by corruption and the lack of accountability of officials. In addition, the government uses vague "state secrets" provisions to arrest and detain religious leaders, along with journalists and others who criticize or embarrass authorities.

Too often, "the law is used as a tool to repress dissidents, religious believers and others seeking to exercise the rights and freedoms protected by the Chinese Constitution and international norms," says the USCIRF.

Its report commented on the new Regulations on Religious Affairs, which were heralded as a "paradigm shift" in the protection of religious freedom in China. "It is the Commission's position that the new regulations do not adequately protect the rights and security of religious believers and are not fully consistent with international human rights norms," the USCIRF states.

In fact, the new regulations extend the government's control over almost all religious activity and establish fines and punishment for "unregistered" religious activity. China's economy might be booming, but freedom is still a scarce commodity.


Year of the Eucharist: Food for Faith in China
Bishop Who Missed the Synod Tells of Fervour in Shanghai

ROME, NOV. 1, 2005 ( One of the Chinese prelates unable to attend the Synod of Bishops wrote a letter highlighting the importance of the Year of the Eucharist for the Church in his country.

The letter, dated Sept. 29, was written by Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai to Italian Senator Giulio Andreotti, director of the magazine 30 Giorni.

"I have the great joy to be able to tell you that the Eucharistic Year, instituted by the Holy Father, also had a very high resonance in China, as our community greatly loves the Eucharist and tries to live its mystery in its own life," stated the prelate in his letter.

"In Shanghai we held an open Eucharistic Congress, in which numerous priests and lay people took part, [and it was] solemnly closed with the holy Mass held last Sept. 24, in the Shrine of the Virgin of Sheshan, by the auxiliary bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Xing Wenzhi," he continued.

"Some 2,500 faithful received Communion on that occasion," Bishop Jin wrote. "The celebration was preceded by a solemn procession that, starting from our seminary, unfolded with prayers and songs through the streets that lead to the Sheshan hill, on whose summit is the Shrine of the Virgin so venerated by us all.

"At the end I had the joy of imparting myself to those present a solemn Eucharistic blessing, which closed our celebrations."

Extremely alive

The prelate sent Andreotti, a former Italian prime minister, photos of the "extraordinary event."

"Our community," concluded Bishop Jin's letter, "prayed and continues to pray for the whole universal Church and we are sure that on your part your remembrance continues for this part of the Church, still reduced in number, but extremely alive in the testimony of life."

Bishop Jin, who is recognized by the Chinese government, is one of the prelates the Pope invited to participate in the synod. He was unable to travel to Rome due to bureaucratic problems imposed on him and the others.


China's Second Thoughts About Family Planning
Amid New Doubts, Harsh Policies Linger

BEIJING, OCT. 22, 2005 ( China's fierce demographic control policies have exacted a heavy toll during the last quarter-century. An overview of the consequences appeared in an article in the Sept. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The Effect of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years," authored by Therese Hesketh and Zhu Wei Xing, noted that the regulations cover matters ranging from family size, late marriage and the spacing of children. The term "one-child policy" is, in fact, misleading in that it is applied only to a part of the population, primarily government workers and those living in urban areas. Rural families are generally allowed a second child, five years after the birth of the first, especially if the first was a girl.
The restrictions are underpinned a system of rewards and penalties, which are administrated by local officials and which vary widely. They can include economic incentives for compliance, as well as substantial fines, including confiscation of belongings and dismissal from work, for noncompliance.

Contraception and abortion are the backbone of the implementing the policy. Long-term measures are favored, with intrauterine devices and sterilizations together accounting for more than 90% of contraceptive methods used since the mid-1980s. The authors note that the majority of women are offered no choice in contraception.

Hesketh and Zhu note that authorities claim that the policy has prevented 250 million to 300 million births. The authors caution that population statistics in China are known to be subject to government manipulation. The total fertility rate -- the mean number of children born per woman -- decreased from 2.9 in 1979 to 1.7 in 2004, with a rate of 1.3 in urban areas and just under 2.0 in rural areas.

Girls eliminated

One consequence of the family planning restrictions has been the growing disproportion between male and female births. The proportion of male live births to female live births ranges from 1.03 to 1.07 in industrialized countries. In China the ratio was 1.06 in 1979, but climbed to 1.17 by 2001.

Sex-selective abortion, facilitated by the use of ultrasound images to find out the sex of unborn children, accounts for a large proportion of the female babies killed. And while infanticide is thought to be rare, sick female infants are known to receive less medical care. The growing scarcity of females has already resulted in kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage, and could well be a threat to the country's stability in coming years, according to some analysts.

The low birthrate has set the stage for a rapid aging of China's population. The percentage of those over age 65 was 5% in 1982 and now stands at 7.5%. It might top 15% by 2025. These figures are low compared to industrialized nations. But the lack of an adequate pensions system in China means that most of the elderly depend on their children for support, leading to concern over how the ever-smaller numbers of children will cope in coming years.

Authorities have tacitly acknowledged some of the problems caused by the family planning system, by adopting a more flexible policy in various regions. A more-open admission came at the start of this year, Reuters reported Jan. 6. On the occasion of China's population reaching the 1.3 billion mark, an editorial in the China Daily supported the one-child policy but conceded: "Admittedly, the family planning policy has gone awry in some places."

Reuters also reported the same day that China was taking further steps to avoid the selective abortion of females. The news agency said that government data showed 119 boys were being born for every 100 girls. Sex-selective abortion was already illegal, but the new plans involve a further tightening of regulations, including banning the use of ultrasound machines to detect the sex of fetuses.

Authorities, however, made it clear that they will not countenance opposition to family planning policies. The Associated Press reported Jan. 5 that a Shanghai woman, Mao Hengfeng, was sentenced to an additional three months in a labor camp because of her opposition to the policies. She was already serving a one-and-a-half year sentence for her campaign to abolish the family planning policies.

Repression intensifies

Recent events in the eastern province of Shandong indicated just how harsh the family planning policies still are. On Sept. 7 the Washington Post reported that Chen Guangcheng, a blind peasant who campaigned against the use of forced sterilization and abortion, had been seized by authorities. Chen was visiting Beijing while preparing a lawsuit to challenge the abuses.

Chen, who lives in Linyi, a city to the southeast of the capital, had protested against local measures that required parents with two children to be sterilized and women pregnant with a third child to undergo abortions. Three days later the Washington Post reported that Chen had been confined to his home by authorities and couldn't receive visitors.

Time magazine in its Sept. 19 issue also reported on the events in the province. The article graphically described the case of a forced abortion of a 9-month-old unborn child being carried by Li Juan.

The article explained that family planning policies were eased at the national level in 2002, allowing parents to have extra children, so long as they paid big fines. But in many cases local Communist Party officials still maintain the old, harsher restrictions and attitudes.

Faced with criticisms by provincial leaders that the birthrate was too high, local officials launched a campaign in March to eliminate what they considered to be the extra births. Time magazine described the operation as "one of the most brutal mass sterilization and abortion campaigns in years." In one county alone at least 7,000 people were forced to undergo sterilization between March and July. According to Time, several villagers were beaten to death for trying to help family members avoid sterilization.

Officials also resorted to arresting family members of women who did not agree to be sterilized, the Chicago Tribute reported Oct. 2. And in one case a family was forced to pay a fine and fees equivalent to $617, more than an average farmer makes in a year in the province.

The Washington Post followed up the matter with a report Sept. 20. The newspaper said that officials in the city of Linyi had been dismissed for abuses committed while enforcing the one-child policy. But the newspaper also cited Jian Tianyong, a local lawyer involved in a lawsuit against the officials, as saying that only a few low-level officials had been punished, leaving the party leaders untouched.

The recent events have been criticized by the human rights organization Amnesty International. In an Oct. 14 press release Amnesty started by noting it has not taken an official position on China's "birth control policy." But it is concerned about the human rights violations resulting from the coercive methods used to apply the policy.

Referring to forced abortion and sterilization, and the forcible detention of people, Amnesty declared that it considers such actions "to be cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture."


7,000 Attend Bishop Chang's Funeral Despite Intimidation
Last Tribute to a Persecuted Prelate

HANYANG, China, OCT. 17, 2005 ( Authorities in Hubei province undertook an intimidation campaign by phone before giving permission for public funeral rites for "underground" Bishop Peter Chang Bai Ren, according to the AsiaNews agency.

Bishop Chang of Hanyang died Oct. 12 at age 90. His funeral Saturday drew 7,000 faithful.

The Chinese government allows religious practice only with personnel approved by and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association. Hence there are "official" and "underground" communities of the Church; the latter obey the Pope directly.

Bishop Chang's loyalty to the Pope cost him 24 years of imprisonment and forced labor, as well as surveillance and detentions, following his episcopal consecration in 1986.

The day after the prelate's death, the eldest priest in Hanyang Diocese, a Father Chen, received a visit from government representatives, who signaled acceptance of a public funeral for the bishop, even though they had never recognized him as such.

However, according to sources of the AsiaNews agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), already before this visit, the Hubei government had contacted all the dioceses and parishes of the province to warn them that participation in Bishop Chang's funeral was forbidden.

It was only after this intimidation campaign that representatives of the local Religious Affairs Office went to Zhangjiatai, Bishop Chang's birthplace, to agree about the funeral.


The faithful of Hanyang felt "fooled" by the government, which orchestrated the whole affair "to save face" in international public opinion, said AsiaNews sources.

Still, at least 7,000 people of the "official" and "underground" communities of the Church went to Zhangjiatai on Saturday to pay their last respects to the bishop.

The funeral rites lasted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fifteen priests concelebrated at the funeral Mass, among them some from the "official" Church, who became priests thanks to Bishop Chang.

In line with local legislation, the prelate's remains were cremated. The urn with the ashes will be kept under the altar of the church of Zhangjiatai.

The local government forbade the use of the title "bishop" throughout the ceremony. Only the designations of "priest" and "elderly gentleman" were allowed.

AsiaNews reported: "The leaders of the diocese, however, did not bend to threats and a banner was posted bearing the inscription: Monsignor Peter Chang, unofficial bishop of Hanyang Diocese." Police monitored the ceremony.
Father Chen in his homily said: "Monsignor Chang was a courageous bishop, faithful to the Pope. He lived his entire life always faithful to the Lord and to the universal Church, without ever letting go of his faith, even in the face of threats from political powers."


Funeral Authorized for Chinese Underground Bishop
Official and Non-official Prelates to Preside

HANYANG, China, OCT. 14, 2005 ( The provincial government of Hubei in China has authorized a public funeral for a bishop of the underground Church.

Bishop Peter Chang Bai Ren of Hanyang, 90, who died Wednesday of heart ailments, will be buried by priests in both the official Church and underground Church in China. Members of the underground Church declare allegiance directly to Rome.

The Chinese government allows religious practice only with personnel approved by, and places registered with, the Religious Affairs Office, and under the control of the Patriotic Association.

Bishop Chang will be buried near his birthplace in Zhangjiatai, in the Xiantao district, on Saturday morning, reported AsiaNews.

The bishop had spent 24 years in prison and forced labor camps, 1955-1979, for his loyalty to the Pope.

In the 1980s the government restructured the subdivision of dioceses to make them coincide with provincial structures and government districts, and his diocese became part of the larger Diocese of Wuhan.

Bishop Chang and his four priests continued, however, to serve the faithful to the present time.

Bishop Chang received episcopal consecration in 1986 from Bishop Liu Hede, the non-official head of the Hankou Diocese.

Future of Christians in China
Interview With Italian Journalist Gerolamo Fazzini

ROME, OCT. 14, 2005 ( The Church in China exists among lights and shadows, said an Italian reporter who recently spent three weeks in the country meeting with priests, nuns and lay people.

Following his trip, Gerolamo Fazzini, co-editor of Mondo e Missione, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, wrote six reports, on as many Chinese cities, for the Italian Catholic episcopate's newspaper Avvenire.

Q: How do you see the situation of Christians in China? Does optimism or mistrust prevail?

Fazzini: It is difficult to make a global evaluation. The readings oscillate between the optimism of those, such as David Aikman, author of a much-discussed book, "Jesus in Beijing" -- which prophesies a luminous future for Christianity in China, especially for Protestants -- and the pessimism of those who see an uncertain future, even darker than the present, in light of the fact that the regime does not seem willing to take steps when it comes to religious rights.

The impression received when visiting China is that the two attitudes, hope and disillusion, coexist -- just as the wheat of the Church's vitality coexists with the weeds of political control, which makes itself heard at different times and in different places -- but which has not given up the pretension of governing the religious realm -- and the internal tensions in the Christian communities, which are not lacking.

Q: In recent weeks there have been two news items reflecting opposite signs: the government's ban on the participation of four Chinese bishops, invited to the Synod of Bishops by Benedict XVI, and the announcement, by the superior of the Missionaries of Charity, that the government has invited Mother Teresa's religious to go to China, something long dreamed about by the founder. How should these two contradictory events be interpreted?

Fazzini: One would have to be in the control room to understand the internal dynamics of power.

I will restrict myself to observe that such contradictory and enigmatic signs confirm the fact that something is changing, although it is difficult to make predictions. Personally, I am confident, given that the one who directs history is unpredictable.

Q: Regarding Catholics in China, are there really two Churches? What is the relationship like between them?

Fazzini: It is a known fact that the situation of the Catholic Church has altogether particular features in China. There are two communities -- not two Churches; the Church is the same one, that of Christ.

One is the official community, which makes reference to the Chinese Catholics' Patriotic Association [CCPA], the other is the improperly called "underground" Church, which does not recognize the CCPA's authority.

The novelty in recent times is that, on both sides, there are those who are working for reconciliation, to overcome the impasse. Not, of course, by putting a headstone on the past or forgetting the many martyrs of yesterday and today, but by seeking at the same time to emerge from a situation that risks fossilization.

Although it is true that the "underground" community is the most scourged by persecution, it must not be thought that for the official community the situation is rose-colored. The latter also suffers limitations in its activity, as is the case of any religious presence in China.

In fact, in different ways, penury of means, lack of personnel, difficulties in resisting the speed of changes of the age, which China is going through, are elements that unite the faithful of the two communities.

Beyond this, I have been able to appreciate in both communities a great desire for reconciliation and unity, despite the internal difficulties that afflict different dioceses. An agreeable surprise for me was to see members of the official community express a great affection for the Pope, and a strong love for the universal Church.

Q: In your trip to China, what impressed you most about the consecrated life of the Church?

Fazzini: The situation of women religious impressed me. Because there is virtually no talk about them yet, they are discreet and humble, but living a pledge.

I met them in Xian, in Shanghai, in Beijing, including some nuns of the region of Hebei, which is to a degree the bastion of the "underground" communities.

They wear their habits only for solemn religious celebrations; usually they wear normal, simple clothes; they could easily be confused with the local women. It is known that women religious in China cannot belong to any international order or congregation.

They all refer to a diocesan institution and depend on the local bishop. Many of them are young, they have great faith but often an inadequate formation.

Q: What is the most problematic aspect that the Catholic Church faces in China today?

Fazzini: It is difficult to say. One of the fundamental points is the formation of the clergy and of women religious. The long persecution of the past decades has caused enormous damages. There is an entire generation of bishops and priests missing. It is easy to imagine what this means in terms of formation.

Such a question is part of a more general problem which we could define in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council in ordinary pastoral praxis. Young people, who in the span of a few years will take the reins of the Church in China, will be one of the crucial challenges for the new bishops.

Q: China is changing at an impressive rate. Can the Church cope with the speed of change, meet the challenges that arise, and proclaim Christ to the younger generations?

Fazzini: Yes and no. In the large cities -- I am thinking, for example, of Shanghai and Beijing -- there is no lack of committed bishops, priests and lay people who have the necessary preparation to address the volume of challenges that are at hand. Some have studied abroad; they are able to relate to the new context.

But many others exhaust themselves trying to make sense of the world around us, for lack of adequate instruments. Going from the cities to the countryside, for example, one notes, just by looking at the Church\'s iconography, the profound chasm that separates the urban reality from the countryside.

The majority of lay Chinese live in rural areas, but the future will be decided increasingly in the cities. In the future, will Christianity be able to speak to the increasingly modern Chinese people? Beyond the problems connected to the public context, this seems to be the greatest challenge for the Church in China.

Q: Could you comment on the unbalanced social inequalities that exist alongside the spectacular economic development in China?

Fazzini: Indeed. Traveling through China, even only for a few weeks, as was my case, one perceives this difference. Next to the class of those who are outstanding, who are perfectly integrated in the international economic circuit, is the mass of the population, especially rural, that lives in conditions of poverty, without adequate social services.

The authorities perceive this situation: President Hu Jintao said that economic growth must go at the same pace as the struggle against disparity between the richer coastal provinces and regions of the interior, extremely poor.

Because of this, the Chinese Communist Party is about to launch a five-year plan to build a "more harmonious and stable" society. We'll see.

What is positive is the novelty that the government is realizing that it cannot guarantee a minimum level of welfare to the population and, therefore, little by little is making possible room for action, limited but real, for the NGOs. We are far from subsidiarity as we understand it, but, in any case, it is a positive sign.

Q: Often terrible news comes from China relative to the practices of "demographic control": abortions on a large scale, infanticide and forced sterilizations. What can citizens of Western countries do to help China check these phenomena?

Fazzini: That China has a problem of demographic control is plain for everyone to see. It is not enough to affirm it theoretically. When one sees the megalopolis brimming with crowds, the metropolises full to the point of disbelief, one then intuits the extent of the problem. What to do?

One can, for example, help China to identify the most appropriate ways to educate in responsible paternity and maternity. Political fantasy? Not really. Experimental programs of the Billings [Ovulation] Method [of natural family planning] was introduced successfully two years ago in some areas. Why not support its extension on a large scale, accompanying it with a campaign of education of young people?

Sadly, and mistakenly, I do not think that Western governments, in the main pro-abortion, will support this solution. Another interesting path that is opening, as regards Italy, is the international adoption of Chinese children.

Q: What can Christians do?

Fazzini: First, pray. If God is the one who moves history, he must be asked with insistence for the necessary help for our Chinese brothers and sisters. The Church in China, moreover, feels very comforted in knowing that sister Churches don\'t forget her.

Second, it is important to get involved, to know what is available: The instruments are not lacking, from Catholic agencies, such as ZENIT and AsiaNews to specialized reviews such as Mondo e Missione.

Fundamental, in my opinion, is the background strategy. It is necessary to express the greatest "liking" for the Chinese people, for their very rich and ancient culture, and at the same time to make it "pressing" for the authorities to change what is against human rights.

Finally, I think one must also contribute financially to support the Church in China.


China's Crackdown on Christians

Authorities Step Up Hard-line Measures

BEIJING, JULY 31, 2004 ( China seems determined to restrict the spread of Christianity in the country. Authorities are now using the same tactics against Christian churches that they deployed to quash the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The crackdown, ordered late last year by the China's political leadership, according to the Journal, is being carried out by an offshoot of the task force that coordinated the campaign against the Falun Gong. The main focus is on the rural zones, where religious fervor is on the rise.

"The spread of Christianity is really worrying the government, so it has become a target," said Kang Xiaoguang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to the Wall Street Journal.

The government is targeting what it terms "cults," which are only loosely described. In practice the term is applied to whatever groups have not received official permission to operated. Apart from the continued persecution of Catholic groups that do not submit to official control, the government is particularly worried about evangelical and Protestant groups, who have been rapidly expanding.

Chronicle of persecution

Two groups active in documenting religious persecution, the Center for Religious Freedom, a division of Freedom House, and Compass Direct, have collected news on the crackdown by authorities from a wide range of sources. Among the reports from past months are the following items.

-- July 22. More than 100 religious leaders were arrested in the western province of Xinjiang. The arrests came during a meeting organized by the Ying Shang Church, a large house-church network headquartered in Anhui Province. The arrests came shortly after 40 house-church leaders were arrested while attending a training seminar in Cheng Du City in the province of Sichuan.

-- July 19. Chinese authorities detained and interrogated house-church leader Samuel Lamb after worship services on June 13. Ten of his co-workers were also detained and interrogated. This is the first time in 14 years that Chinese authorities have taken repressive steps against Lamb, who reportedly hosts 3,000 worshippers per week at his meeting place in Guangzhou.

-- July 5. A 34-year-old woman was beaten to death in jail on the day she was arrested for handing out Bibles in Guizhou province. Police arrested Jiang Zongxiu on June 18 on suspicion of "spreading rumors and inciting to disturb social order," according to the local press. Her mother-in-law, Tan Dewei, was arrested with Jiang but later released. She said police kicked Jiang repeatedly during interrogation.

-- June 23. The Vatican strongly protested to China over the arrest of three Catholic bishops -- one of them 84 years old -- in the previous month. The statement called the bishops' arrest "inconceivable in a country based on laws." The 84-year-old bishop of Xuanhua was arrested May 27. Another two bishops, from Xiwanzi and Zhengding, were detained for several days in June.

-- May 24. Gu Xianggao, a teacher in a house-church group, was beaten to death by Public Security Bureau officers.

-- May 16. Two Catholic priests, Lu Genjun and Cheng Xiaoli, were arrested May 14 in An Guo, Hebei province, by government security policemen. The priests were set to begin classes for natural family planning and moral theology courses. Father Lu was previously arrested on Palm Sunday 1998 for a short period. He was arrested again shortly before Easter in 2001 and detained for three years.

-- May 10. Chinese Christians gave evidence of persecution at a special meeting called by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in April. The speakers testified to beatings, imprisonment, torture and harassment. Female members of the South China Church also testified to torture and sexual assault at the hands of police officers. Their evidence was supported by documents and a video showing the destruction of a church in Zhejiang province.

Religion feared

An in-depth look at the reasons behind the government's persecution of religious groups was published March 31 by the Norway-based human rights group Forum 18. The 10th National People's Congress that concluded in Beijing on March 14 included an amendment to the Chinese Constitution, stating that "The state respects and safeguards human rights."

Forum 18 observed that this new provision aroused skepticism among commentators, given that the constitution already contained safeguards protecting human rights. Those safeguards have not impeded past violations.

In fact, the report noted that on March 5, the very day the meeting opened, Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang province was arrested. And on the same day, police arrested, detained and beat Hua Huiqi, an unofficial house-church leader in Beijing.

A major factor behind the repression, according to Forum 18, can be found in the Communist ideology. Official policy bars Communist Party members from adhering to any religious belief or participating in religious activities.

And even if Communist ideology is no longer so popular, as recently as November an article in the People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, entitled "A Historical Study of the Communist Party of China's Theory and Policy Concerning Religion," inveighed against religion.

"To uphold the fundamental opposition in world outlook of Marxism and religion," stated the article, "it is of course essential to uphold the fundamental opposition of science and religion. Religion is an illusory, inverse reflection of the external world, whereas the task of science is to understand the objective world in accordance with reality, advocating seeking truth from facts and pursuing objective truth."

Forum 18 said that the government further fears religion because it represents a threat to the Communist Party's ability to mobilize the masses, particularly the peasantry. Officials estimate there are at least 100 million believers of all faiths throughout China, and authorities are worried that religious organizations could repeat what happened in the past, when religion was a key factor in popular revolts.

Concern over human rights

China also continues to maintain tight controls over political _expression and organization. An April 14 press release by Amnesty International (AI) outlined some of the concerns over human rights in China.

-- Crackdown on Internet users: By the end of March, at least 60 people had been detained or imprisoned after accessing or circulating politically sensitive information on the Internet. According to AI the Internet censorship practiced by the Chinese government is the most extensive in the world, and many of the toughest controls have been issued since 2000.

-- Death penalty: China continues to execute more people than the rest of the world combined. Executions are carried out following trials that fall far short of international fair-trial standards. AI declared that the death penalty continues to be used extensively and arbitrarily as a result of political interference. And people continue to be executed even for nonviolent crimes such as tax fraud and pimping.

-- Torture, unfair trials and administrative detention: Ill-treatment remains widespread in police stations, prisons and labor camps. As well, those accused of both political and criminal offenses continue to be denied due process and detainees' access to lawyers and family members is severely restricted. China's economic progress in recent years has yet to be matched by advances in religious and political liberty.