Cardinal declares China has "one Church with two faces"
The Vatican's Cardinal Roger Etchegaray has moved to stress that the Holy See regards China's "Patriotic" Church, which is loyal to the Government, as part of the universal Church.
There is a view that the "underground" Church, which sees itself as defying the Government in order to to mantain loyalty with Rome, is the only "true" Catholic Church in China.
Cardinal Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spend ten days in China at the end of last month. In the past he has frequently served as the Pope's diplomatic envoy.
He denied the existence of a divide between the underground and Government-recognised patriotic elements of the Catholic Church.
"There is only one Church with two faces," he said. "There is not one 'patriotic' Church and one 'underground' Church, one legal and the other protesting."
Australian Oblate priest John Wotherspoon, who lives in Zhaoqing in southern China, commented to CathNews this week that Cardinal Etchegaray received a cool reception from members of the "underground" Church, who regard him as the "devil incarnate" for his attempts to foster reconciliation between the underground and patriotic "faces" of the Catholic Church in China.
Fr Wotherspoon believes that western media gives a distorted account of the Church in China because of its strong reliance on organisations such as the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which is committed to promoting the cause of elements of the underground Church that are hostile to the Government.
He described as one-sided, this week's report that police in north-east China raided a religious retreat and arrested about a dozen Catholic priests, while a church in the vicinity was demolished.
Cardinal Etchegaray acknowledged that there have been setbacks in relations between the Holy See and the Beijing regime. He expressed his hope that "harassment" and even "persecution" would come to and end.
At the same time, the cardinal acknowledged some false steps on the part of Vatican officials in their dealings with China. He was apparently referring to the canonisation of 120 Chinese martyrs on 1 October 2000 on a date observed in China as the most important national holiday.
Only one Catholic Church in China, Vatican prelate says (Catholic World News)
Cardinal Etchegaray Receives Raoul Follereau Peace Award (Zenit)
China arrests priests, demolishes church (28/10/03)
China demolishes church (AFP/Herald-Sun)
China8.org (Fr John Wotherspoon's website)
Cardinal Kung Foundation | Approximately A Dozen Underground Roman Catholic Priests and Seminarians Were Arrested and Another Church Was Demolished in China
China arrests five "underground" priests (7/7/03)
China tightening its grip on Catholics (3/6/03)
30 Oct 2003