Choose new Beijing bishop from existing prelates, Viet cardinal advises

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.

Cardinal Pham addressed his letter to two officials from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), UCA News reports.

Church 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.

The 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.

"This could be regarded as a bridge of communion between me and the Catholic Church in your country," Cardinal Man wrote.

A church 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.

However, as of 31 May, there had been no reply from the Chinese government, the source said.

According 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.

"It is 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.

The church 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.

The prelate 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 office.

Then the 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.

The 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.

Work with Vatican to fill vacant bishop’s post, cardinal urges China officials (UCA News, 1/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Church in China (Wikipedia)
Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (Wikipedia)
Catholic Church in China (Catholic Hierarchy)
Cardinal Pham (Catholic Hierarchy)

No China ties unless Vatican appoints bishops (CathNews, 22/5/07)
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4 Jun 2007