Chinese Church welcomes Vatican moves on reconciliation

Leaders of the Chinese government-recognised and unofficial Catholic communities have welcomed initiatives announced by the Holy See over the weekend including the formation of a permanent Vatican commission on China.

According to UCA News, the initiatives announced after a high level meeting including Vatican officials and key Chinese Church figures including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong, Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau, and Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, Emeritus Bishop of Kaohsiung, and Bishop Luke Liu Hsien-tang of Taiwan.

Recognising the uncompromising fidelity of mainland Catholics to the Pope, the statement acknowledged that "almost all the bishops and priests are in communion with the supreme pontiff."

Vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Anthony Liu Bainian, told UCA News that the statement's point about the Holy See still aiming to normalise its relations with China is "beneficial and constructive to the improvement of Sino-Vatican relations".

Liu also said the statement's mentioning the growth of the China Church "shows the Vatican understands that there is religious freedom in China."

"I hope and I also believe that the Pope's letter will show his love of China's churches," Liu added in a telephone interview with reporters, the International Herald Tribune says. "I am hopeful that it can improve Chinese-Vatican ties."

Over the past five to six decades, all Catholic bishops, priests and laity in China never changed their fidelity to the Pope, he added - "if not so, it would no longer be the Catholic Church."

The fidelity of the China church, Liu further asserted, is second to no other church in Europe or elsewhere.

However, according to Liu, the Vatican's diplomatic ties with Taiwan, prevent the mainland church from maintaining contact with the Vatican, so "for the sake of survival and evangelisation, the China church could not but 'self-elect and self-ordain' its bishops".

"If it weren't for our lack of regular ties, it would not be so problematic for our two governments to reach agreements on issues," Liu said in apparent reference to the practice of jointly approving bishops.

An underground priest in northern China told UCA News that it is not surprising to see the carefully written and balanced statement concerning the first such summit on the China church during Pope Benedict's pontificate.

In his view, the statement is encouraging for underground Catholics, yet the Holy See takes account of the "open" church when the Vatican statement notes that about almost all bishops and priests are in communion with the Pope.

However, while an underground priest in southeastern China told UCA News that the "superficial" statement will do "very little" to foster reconciliation between the two church communities, other church leaders were of the view that "the Holy Spirit has been working."

The openness and willingness of church officials at various levels to frankly and actively engage in discussion have boosted their spirits, they said.

Hong Kong reports also quote Cardinal Zen, who is now 75, as saying that the Pope was probably going to let him step down as the city's bishop to help the Vatican restore diplomatic ties with China.

Photo source: msnbc.msn.com

China welcomes Vatican attempts to mend ties
Catholic Church leaders welcome Vatican statement about recent 'China summit'

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Roman Catholicism in China (Wikipedia)
Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (Wikipedia)

Benedict to write to China seeking "normal" diplomatic relations (CathNews, 22/1/07)
Hong Kong cardinal in call to excommunicate China bishops (CathNews, 22/12/06)


23 Jan 2007