Welcome to China: Patriotic Church to Pope

Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Liu Bainian, says that he hopes to see the pope celebrating Mass in Beijing one day and has sent a greeting to the pontiff praying for "the grace to welcome him here among us".

The International Herald Tribune reports that Mr Bainian made the comments in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica in which he praised Benedict's recent letter to China's Catholics as "positive."

"I strongly hope to be able to see the pope one day here in Beijing to celebrate Mass for us Chinese," Liu was quoted as saying.

He said he wanted, through the interview, to send the pope a special greeting. "Let him know that we pray for him always and may the Lord give us the grace to welcome him here among us."

Liu praised Benedict's letter, saying there was a "big positive difference" compared with the Vatican's previous positions.

"Every opposition to socialism disappeared. We weren't accused of schism. It marked the first time that, according to the pope, Chinese people could feel it was possible to be Catholic and love their own country."

He expressed optimism that a solution could be found to the contentious issue of appointing bishops.

"The problem can be resolved. It will be resolved, I hope soon," he was quoted as saying.

At the same time, however, Liu insisted that religion could never be used to interfere in China's internal affairs.

"Beijing will never accept what the church did in Poland," he said, referring to Pope John Paul II's support for the Solidarity movement that helped topple communism in his homeland.

He explained Beijing's relationship with the Vatican by recalling China's bitter experience with foreign colonisers and missionaries, but stressed that Chinese Catholics always recognised the sole authority of the pope as far as religion was concerned.

Pope Benedict was also asked about the comments as he left a church in Auronzo di Cadore, in northern Italy, where he was meeting with clergy from the region.

"I can't speak at this time," Benedict said, according to the ANSA and Apcom news agencies. "It's a bit complicated."

Zen clarifies confusion

Meanwhile, Catholic World News reports that Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has warned against confusion in reactions to the pope's message to the Church in China.

He also directly criticised statements by a noted Catholic Sinologist, Fr Jerooom Heyndrickx, who said that the Pope's main objective was to promote union between the "official" Church recognised by the government and the "underground" Church loyal to the Holy See.

In statements released earlier this month, Fr Heyndrickx, the Belgian head of the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation at Leuven's Catholic University, said that the pope had encouraged bishops of the underground Church to join with "official" bishops in concelebrating Mass.

Cardinal Zen stressed that the pope encouraged concelebration only with those bishops who had regularised their status with the Holy See.

Similarly, the cardinal said that it was wrong to suggest that the pope wanted all "underground" bishops to register with the government.

Report: China's Catholic Church urges pope to visit, celebrate Mass (International Herald Tribune, 24/7/07)
Cardinal Zen warns against confusion surrounding the Pope's China letter (Catholic World News, 24/7/07)

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

Chinese Catholics name new Beijing bishop (CathNews, 19/7/07)
China bishops, leaders positive on papal letter (CathNews, 4/7/07)
Benedict's letter "different": Chinese church leader (CathNews, 3/7/07)
Benedict reaches out to China (CathNews, 2/7/07)
Benedict to write to China seeking "normal" diplomatic relations (CathNews, 22/1/07)
Monasteries pray for Pope's China letter (CathNews, 26/6/07)
No China ties unless Vatican appoints bishops (CathNews, 22/5/07)
China bishop still missing (CathNews, 17/4/07)
"Christian explosion" among Chinese intellectuals, expert finds (CathNews, 23/3/07)
No rest for Zen, Pope decides (CathNews, 22/3/07)
Bibles for Beijing Olympics (CathNews, 12/3/07)

25 Jul 2007