Catholics must unite as China warms to Christianity: Bishop

Macau Bishop Jose Lai has challenged Chinese Catholics to start a new dialogue between the underground and government-recognised church groups in order to benefit from the country's increasingly tolerant approach to Christianity.

UCA News reports that Bishop Jose Lai of Macao gave an optimistic assessment of the attitude of the local government in his native Macao, a special administrative region on the southern coast of China, just over 150 kilometres from Hong Kong.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for suffering Christians, the bishop described China as a country now beginning "to open up" with an increasingly tolerant approach to Christianity.

"The Church and society in China are going through a turbulent process which cannot be compared to the situation in Europe or America," he said.

The bishop also highlighted plans to move the Church-run Macao Inter-University Institute to a bigger site close to Macao's border with the Chinese mainland.

If approved, the university, which opened in 1996 in the final years of Macao's period under Portuguese administration, could treble to nearly 1,800 students, with the strong possibility of undergraduates coming from the mainland.

Bishop Lai's hopes for the university reflect his view that in many parts of China, the Church is enjoying a gradual rehabilitation and he went on to spell out the need for Catholics, especially from the "unofficial" Church, to take a positive attitude towards Beijing.

Catholics in China, who number at least 15 million, are made up of "official" Church members, with government-recognised bishops, and members of "unofficial" communities, which are not registered with the State.

Bishop Lai also said that during his recent visit to Beijing, he noted that contrary to past practice, the government was allowing foreign priests to teach in seminaries. He had even met a nun from Taiwan, he said.

He added that on a visit last month to Canton city, 120 km from Macau, he saw a cathedral which in the 20 years since his last visit, had been totally renovated - with substantial government support.

Bishop calls on Church to deepen dialogue (UCA News, 19/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Macau Inter-University Institute
Catholic diocese of Macau (Wikipedia)

Hong Kong Cardinal says China persecutes both official and underground churches (CathNews, 3/10/06)
Released Chinese bishop seeks reconciliation (CathNews, 13/9/06)
Chinese bishop released after 10 years in prison (CathNews, 28/8/06)
Holy See sends envoys to Beijing for secret talks (CathNews, 19/6/06)
China's first Catholic non-profit approved but arrests continue (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Pope declares diplomatic war with China (CathNews, 5/5/06)
Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (CathNews, 9/9/05)
Rome condemns arrest of Chinese bishops/murder of Korean hostage (CathNews, 23/6/04)
Chinese bishop freed from detention after foreign visitors depart (CathNews, 17/3/04)

20 Oct 2006