The Church in China
Holy See Statement on Episcopal Ordinations
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.
* * *
"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
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
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
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
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.
* * *
Episcopal Ordination in the Diocese of
(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
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
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
"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.
* * *
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
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
COMMUNIQUE ON MEETING ON CATHOLIC
CHURCH IN CHINA
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
"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
"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.
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
THE HISTORY OFTHE UNDERGROUND
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
...it 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
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.
A COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIP
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
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
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.
A REALISTIC ASSESSMENT
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
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
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
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
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 http://www.cardinalkungfoundation.org/ didyouknow/DidYouKnow.htm (accessed 25
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.
COMMUNIQUE: MEETING ON THE CHURCH IN CHINA
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
"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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q: Did you see any signs of hope for the Church in China during your
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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
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
Bishops appointed without papal mandate and not reconciled with Rome
are still illegitimate: They administer the sacraments validly, but not
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
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
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
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
Q: The document does not speak of a "patriotic" or "official Church,"
nor does it mention an "underground Church" -- what is the significance
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
"Web Sites Told to Remove Full Text"
HONG KONG, JULY 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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,"
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.
Note on Letter to China's Catholics
"Sure Guidance for Pastoral Activity in
Years to Come"
JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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
* * *
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Zen on Pope's China Letter
"One Impression and Two Hopes"
HONG KONG, JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
"Willingness to Engage in Respectful and Constructive
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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.
* * *
LETTER OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE BENEDICT XVI TO THE
AND LAY FAITHFUL
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
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,
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'', 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'' wants from you.
THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH
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''.
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.
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 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.
" '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)'' 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''.
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
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'' 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
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, ''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''.
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''.
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
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
Communion between particular Churches in the universal
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.
Likewise, the unity of the episcopate, of which ''the Roman Pontiff, as
the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and
foundation'', 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
Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop is the visible
source and foundation of unity in the particular Church entrusted to
his pastoral ministry. 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''. 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.
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
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''.
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''.
The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic
communion is not expressed without arduous efforts at
reconciliation. 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
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 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 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 but refused to use force to impose it on those
who spoke out against it. His Kingdom does not establish its claims by
force, 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)''.
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
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''.
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 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''. 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''; at a national level,
moreover, only a legitimate Episcopal Conference can formulate pastoral
guidelines, valid for the entire Catholic community of the country
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'' 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''.
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,
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
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. 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''.
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
In the light of the principles expounded above, the
present College of Catholic Bishops of China 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. 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.
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. 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
GUIDELINES FOR PASTORAL LIFE
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''.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. 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
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, 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''.
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''  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
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
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
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, 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
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.[
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
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''.
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.
* * *
 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.
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 10.
 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.
 Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
"Ecclesia in Asia" (6 November 1999), 7: AAS 92 (2000), 456.
 Cf. ibid., 19, 20: AAS 92 (2000), 477-482.
 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.
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio
Ineunte" (6 January 2001), 1: AAS 93 (2001), 266.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 23 August
2006), L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 30 August 2006, p. 3.
 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.
 Cf. Fonti Ricciane, ed. Pasquale M. D'Elia, S.J.,
vol. 2, Rome 1949, no. 617, p. 152.
 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.
 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern
World "Gaudium et Spes," 76.
 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
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 26.
 Ibid., 23.
 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.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium," 23.
 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
 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''.
 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.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April
2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
 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.
 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.
 Cf. Mt 4:8-10; Jn 6:15.
 Cf. Is 42:1-4.
 Cf. Jn 18:37.
 Cf. Mt 26:51-53; Jn 18:36.
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on
Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae, 11.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April
2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 28.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April
2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
174. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 857 and 869.
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos (21 May
1998), 10: AAS 90 (1998), 648.
 Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 447.
 Statutes of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic
Association (CCPA), 2004, art. 3.
 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.
 Ibid., 27.
 Benedict XVI, Address to new Bishops (21 September
2006): AAS 98 (2006), 696.
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 21. Cf. also Code of Canon
Law, c. 375 § 2.
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium",
22. Cf. also "Preliminary Explanatory Note'', No. 2.
 China Catholic Bishops' College (CCBC).
 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
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.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the
Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church "Christus Dominus," 20.
See, in this regard, the relevant norms of the Code of
Canon Law (cf. c. 378).
 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium,"
Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 265-272.
 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.
 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.
 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo
Vobis (25 March 1992), 70: AAS 84 (1992), 782.
 Ibid., 29: AAS 84 (1992), 704.
 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.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World "Gaudium et Spes," 47.
 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris
Consortio" (22 November 1981), 3: AAS 74 (1982), 84.
 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.
 Homily on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Israel, 24
March 2000), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 29 March 2000,
© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
God in China; Oasis in a Hotspot
Choose new Beijing bishop from existing prelates, Viet
Beijing Faces a Faith Explosion
ROME, JUNE 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
religious freedom, based on the situation in various countries," Schmid
While not a film exclusively about Catholic issues, the
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
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
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
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
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
was founded in an attempt to bring Catholic Church teaching in line
with Communist party ideals.
"Those who refused to compromise had to remain
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
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
neighboring communities, Bethlehem University of the Holy Land is a
haven for some 2,500 students.
The university, supported by the Vatican's Congregation
Churches and staffed by the De LeSalle Christian Brothers, is the only
Catholic Christian institution of higher learning in the occupied
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
Throughout its 30-year history, the Christian brothers,
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,
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
Casey said that the university does its best to maintain normalizing
"There is a definite fear no matter where you live. In
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
recently lifted, prevented the Palestinian Authority from providing
much-needed aid to all of the region's institutions, including
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,"
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
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
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."
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.
Pham addressed his letter to two officials from China's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), UCA
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.
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.
be regarded as a bridge of communion between me and the Catholic Church
in your country," Cardinal Man wrote.
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.
of 31 May, there had been no reply from the Chinese government, the
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
"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
9 Priests Arrested in China
ROME, JAN. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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,
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
highest number of Catholics (1.5 million), most of them belonging to
the underground Church.
The Chinese government allows religious practice in
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
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
Auxiliary Bishop Francis Shuxin of Baoding was
released on Aug. 24 by the Chinese authorities after 10 years of
Excommunicate China's bishops, cardinal
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
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
"Conferred Without a Pontifical Mandate"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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,
* * *
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
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
AsiaNews reports that the illicit ordination will take place in the
city of Xuzhou in the Jiangsu region of eastern-central China on 30
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
"The Communist Regime is afraid of any
contact that is not under their control."
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
the ordinations of two bishops nominated by the Chinese Catholic
Patriotic Association without Vatican approval earlier in the year.
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,
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
He also spoke positively of the recent
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Seminary Rector Arrested in 1996
BAODING, China, AUG. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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
The seminary was then disbanded, and priests on the formation team were
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
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
Bishop Zheng Shouduo Dies at
KIANGCHOW, China, AUG. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
"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
Hong Kong Prelate: China to
Halt Illicit Ordinations
Sees Positive Changes Under Way
SEOUL, South Korea, JULY 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Hong Kong's auxiliary
bishop says that the Chinese government intends to stop illicit
episcopal ordinations, which have drawn the condemnation of the Holy
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
Ill Bishop Disappears in
JIN ZHOU, China, JULY 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
Lead Book Review: Awakening of the
China Shakes the World: the rise of a hungry nation
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
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
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
Looks Back, and Ahead, at 150th Anniversary
ROME, JUNE 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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.
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
| 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
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
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 IgnatiusInsight.com 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
Government Pressuring Patriotic Association, Says Cardinal Zen
ROME, JUNE 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
"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 (Zenit.org).- 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.
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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.
"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
"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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.”
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
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
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
“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
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
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.
"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
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."
"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
On the diffusion of religion
"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
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: Hblii@263.net
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
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
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
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
The honoree is Michele Fu Tieshan, a Chinese bishop in dissent from
Rome, strictly faithful to the Communist party and an enemy of
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
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
In China, "Catholics Are Winning"
Interview With Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun
HONG KONG, JAN. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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
Reports Show Continued Repression
WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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."
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
China's Second Thoughts About
Amid New Doubts, Harsh Policies Linger
BEIJING, OCT. 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- 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,
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.
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.
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
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
The local government forbade the use of the title "bishop" throughout
the ceremony. Only the designations of "priest" and "elderly gentleman"
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
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 (Zenit.org).- The provincial government
of Hubei in China has authorized a public funeral for a bishop of the
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 (Zenit.org).- 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
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
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
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 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
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"
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
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
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
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
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 (Zenit.org).- China seems
to restrict the spread of Christianity in the country. Authorities are
now using the same tactics against Christian churches that they
to quash the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Wall Street Journal
The crackdown, ordered late last year by the China's
leadership, according to the Journal, is being carried out by an
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
"The spread of Christianity is really worrying the
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,"
are only loosely described. In practice the term is applied to whatever
groups have not received official permission to operated. Apart from
continued persecution of Catholic groups that do not submit to official
control, the government is particularly worried about evangelical and
groups, who have been rapidly expanding.
Chronicle of persecution
Two groups active in documenting religious
the Center for Religious Freedom, a division of Freedom House, and
Direct, have collected news on the crackdown by authorities from a wide
range of sources. Among the reports from past months are the following
-- July 22. More than 100 religious leaders were
in the western province of Xinjiang. The arrests came during a meeting
organized by the Ying Shang Church, a large house-church network
in Anhui Province. The arrests came shortly after 40 house-church
were arrested while attending a training seminar in Cheng Du City in
province of Sichuan.
-- July 19. Chinese authorities detained and
house-church leader Samuel Lamb after worship services on June 13. Ten
of his co-workers were also detained and interrogated. This is the
time in 14 years that Chinese authorities have taken repressive steps
Lamb, who reportedly hosts 3,000 worshippers per week at his meeting
-- July 5. A 34-year-old woman was beaten to death
jail on the day she was arrested for handing out Bibles in Guizhou
Police arrested Jiang Zongxiu on June 18 on suspicion of "spreading
and inciting to disturb social order," according to the local press.
mother-in-law, Tan Dewei, was arrested with Jiang but later released.
said police kicked Jiang repeatedly during interrogation.
-- June 23. The Vatican strongly protested to China
the arrest of three Catholic bishops -- one of them 84 years old -- in
the previous month. The statement called the bishops' arrest
in a country based on laws." The 84-year-old bishop of Xuanhua was
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
was beaten to death by Public Security Bureau officers.
-- May 16. Two Catholic priests, Lu Genjun and Cheng
were arrested May 14 in An Guo, Hebei province, by government security
policemen. The priests were set to begin classes for natural family
and moral theology courses. Father Lu was previously arrested on Palm
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
at a special meeting called by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in
The speakers testified to beatings, imprisonment, torture and
Female members of the South China Church also testified to torture and
sexual assault at the hands of police officers. Their evidence was
by documents and a video showing the destruction of a church in
An in-depth look at the reasons behind the
persecution of religious groups was published March 31 by the
human rights group Forum 18. The 10th National People's Congress that
in Beijing on March 14 included an amendment to the Chinese
stating that "The state respects and safeguards human rights."
Forum 18 observed that this new provision aroused
among commentators, given that the constitution already contained
protecting human rights. Those safeguards have not impeded past
In fact, the report noted that on March 5, the very
the meeting opened, Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang
was arrested. And on the same day, police arrested, detained and beat
Huiqi, an unofficial house-church leader in Beijing.
A major factor behind the repression, according to
18, can be found in the Communist ideology. Official policy bars
Party members from adhering to any religious belief or participating in
And even if Communist ideology is no longer so
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
"To uphold the fundamental opposition in world
of Marxism and religion," stated the article, "it is of course
to uphold the fundamental opposition of science and religion. Religion
is an illusory, inverse reflection of the external world, whereas the
of science is to understand the objective world in accordance with
advocating seeking truth from facts and pursuing objective truth."
Forum 18 said that the government further fears
because it represents a threat to the Communist Party's ability to
the masses, particularly the peasantry. Officials estimate there are at
least 100 million believers of all faiths throughout China, and
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
_expression and organization. An April 14 press release by Amnesty
(AI) outlined some of the concerns over human rights in China.
-- Crackdown on Internet users: By the end of March,
least 60 people had been detained or imprisoned after accessing or
politically sensitive information on the Internet. According to AI the
Internet censorship practiced by the Chinese government is the most
in the world, and many of the toughest controls have been issued since
-- Death penalty: China continues to execute more
than the rest of the world combined. Executions are carried out
trials that fall far short of international fair-trial standards. AI
that the death penalty continues to be used extensively and arbitrarily
as a result of political interference. And people continue to be
even for nonviolent crimes such as tax fraud and pimping.
-- Torture, unfair trials and administrative
Ill-treatment remains widespread in police stations, prisons and labor
camps. As well, those accused of both political and criminal offenses
to be denied due process and detainees' access to lawyers and family
is severely restricted. China's economic progress in recent years has
to be matched by advances in religious and political liberty.