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‘Rome, Do Not Approve Communist Bishops’



A Priest from the Underground Church in China

An underground priest sent AsiaNews his reflection on the state of relations between China and the Vatican. He asserts that talks and negotiations are useless as long as Beijing is communist and controls the Patriotic Church. There is the need to face the real religious persecution against the faithful Underground Catholic Church in China, he affirms.

 Unlawful bishops loyal to the communist government are young and numerous, he notes, and they will do tremendous damage over the next 20 years if nothing is done. He believes these appointments should not be recognized by the Holy See because it causes public scandal, and asks the Pope to choose others who are faithful to the Holy See.

We reproduce the main excerpts of this unedited letter for our readers so they can evaluate what is the current way of thinking of a priest in the Chinese Catholic Underground Church. (Full text here)

Although we agree with this cry to the Vatican to not recognize the bishops linked to the Communist Regime, we do not endorse all the opinions expressed in this letter. We assume responsibility only for the title. TIA


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Since the beginning of the 1980s, the China-Vatican relation has been a subject of international media scrutiny. Any incident related to this issue will always draw media attention and its analyses of the situation. In recent years, since 2008, China has ordained the largest number of illicit bishops (ordinations without papal mandate) and [illicitly] convened the Eighth Assembly of Catholic Representatives. This has caused the China-Vatican relationship to have fallen to the lowest point in the last decades.

According to media reports and analyses, both China and the Holy See seemed to have softened their stances since the middle of last year. Today, the contacts between China and the Holy See are quite frequent, and there are even rumors about the chance to establish diplomatic ties.... Regarding the crucial point of such a relationship and its perspectives in the near future, I would like to raise a few points for discussion and reflection.

First, in the process of dialogue and contacts, including efforts to have diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, both sides have obviously come to the table with different purposes. The Chinese government is considering the pros and cons of establishing diplomatic relations with the Holy See as the inevitable influence of Catholicism on the Marxist ideologies. Also, this can be seen in a positive light internationally, especially as China is becoming more important in world politics. As for the Holy See, the principal focus is for the Catholic community to practice its right of religious freedom in this land of China.

From the early 1980s, the attitudes of the past three Popes on the Question of China has always been clear and consistent. The Catholics in China, like the Christian faithful in other parts of the world, can and should enjoy the right to religious freedom in the People's Republic of China. ...

The Holy See has, on many occasions, urged the Chinese government to take concrete actions and to guarantee this fundamental right for all citizens of the People's Republic of China. However, regrettably, we do not see this action in practice, and there is no way to obtain legal protection through China's current legislative, administrative and judicial means. Therefore, we believe that, the right to religious freedom should be the main demand in the dialogues and contacts between China and the Holy See.

Looking at the current situation of China's society and from a political point of view, it is not easy to say that the Chinese government will protect the right to religious freedom of all the citizens of the People's Republic of China. Under the present social and political situation in China, it seems that we cannot see any positive signals that can safeguard the Chinese citizens to have the right of religious freedom. Please consider the following points:

First, an issue of the body politic, that is, the principles of "independence from the Holy See and a self-managing Church and a democratically-managed Church," was laid down by the Chinese government regarding the question of the Catholic Church in China. ... Until today, we have not seen any benefits or causes for the Chinese government to abandon such principles.

Second, the issue of the appointment of bishops was always a major sticking point that affects the China-Vatican relations. How should we resolve this issue? It is one of the difficult issues in the dialogue of the both sides. What we see is that, in this respect, the Chinese government has had a considerable right to choose in the past 15 years, since the Holy See has recognized a considerable number of bishops - mostly in their 50s - whom the Chinese government favored. In the future, for at least 20 years, the difficulties that will and have arisen from this issue in the life of the Church in China cannot be underestimated.

Third, to say the least, even if these two difficult problems can be resolved in the dialogue and contacts between China and the Holy See, this does not necessarily mean the Catholic community in China can enjoy the right to religious freedom. For the fundamental right of religious freedom does not depend solely on these two issues ... but depends on the true realization of full human rights in that country, which is not an optimistic prospect in the current political and social situations of China. ...

Until the Chinese government truly implements the right to freedom, democracy and other human rights, then the resolution of the mentioned two issues cannot give true religious freedom to the Catholic community in China. For instance, if there is no right to the freedom of the press, then the Catholic Church will continue to be limited in the free dissemination of information in China. If the Chinese government does not respect the right of parents to choose educational opportunities for their children, then the Catholic faith education will continue to be limited. If China's land problem remains the property of the state, the Catholic Church in China cannot own its real estate or assets.

There are many problems and social issues to be resolved, but they are related to the exercise of the right of religious freedom of the Catholic faithful in China, and these problems and issues cannot be resolved in the near future. Until all these problems are resolved, the agreements signed by both parties will only be a dead letter, lacking any actual content. ...

The Chinese government must face the need of the church to become a true Catholic Church in China ... rather than have government intervention in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church. Prior to establishing diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, the prerequisite is that one should ensure and guarantee ecclesial communion and religious freedom of the Catholic communities in China.

Until this fundamental right of religious freedom of Chinese Catholics is achieved, I think there should be no hurry to establish diplomatic relations. A Chinese saying says: "One who is in a hurry will never get there.". The time of the Church is God's time, she believes solely in the death and resurrection of Christ. The Church has time; she can wait 300 years.

Further, the Holy See has no reason to suspend the appointment of bishops for the Church in China to avoid angering the Chinese government in the processes of dialogue and contacts. ...

If the community of a local church lacks a bishop, and the people of God there are in urgent need of a pastor, the Holy See should consider the suitability of candidates with all its available means and appoint a bishop decisively. Only this will confirm the faith of his brothers in China. ... The Holy See has no reason to delay or deny appointments for political and diplomatic reasons. Religious persecutions cannot be the reason for not appointing bishops. The bishops appointed by the Holy See can testify to their faith in such persecutions. ....

Also, equally serious matters like the illegitimate episcopal ordinations without papal mandate are offenses under the canonical law of the Catholic Church. Some members of the Church in China who have taken these place strongly hurt the ecclesial communion in China. In appointing bishops for the local church in China, such candidates should not be considered as suitable. ... Allowing and appointing a priest with those pubic defects is morally unacceptable, and not living by the truth, unless such a priest publicly renounces the principles of "independence from the Holy See and a democratically managed Church."

For the same reasons, the priests who resist the principles of "independence and a democratically managed Church" and whom the Holy See considers qualified to be a bishop, should have priority. ... For if the bishop appointed by the Holy See is brave enough to be witness to the Gospel under political persecutions, he shows the inner strength of the Gospel and Christ's love for the Church.

Also, by adhering to the principles of "independence and a self-managed and democratically managed Church," the bishops ordained without papal mandate cannot work harmoniously within the church. Unfortunately, we have priests today who have taken these positions. Even though his personal virtues may be highly respected and his ability to lead the people of God very prominent, he should not be selected as a qualified candidate for bishop.

This is a public mistake, since if such persons are appointed as bishops by the Holy See, morally speaking, it means the recognition of these two mistakes as correct. They are not living according to the truth, unless the candidate publicly states that he has abandoned those principles and behaviors.

For the same reason, there are some who have publicly expressed opposition to the principles of "independence from the Holy See and a self-managed and democratically managed Church," and have been ordained as bishops of dioceses without the papal mandate. For such priests, to fill the needs of the local church, the Holy See should consider the person's qualities as a suitable candidate for bishop. This would be much better than to choose those who adhere to these two initiatives but were appointed bishops.

Signed by Peace – the pseudonym of an Underground Chinese priest

Posted February 24, 2015

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The opinions expressed in this section - What People Are Commenting - do not necessarily express those of TIA

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