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Never too late to suggest dialogue Cardinal Tong says


ROME (SE): “However oppressive external restrictions are, they cannot corrupt or take away the gift of faith, if there is faith,” John Cardinal Tong Hon told Gianni Valente from Vatican Insider.

The bishop of Hong Kong said that when the new Chinese leadership gets round to reviewing its dossier on its relations with the Holy See, it will find a proposal from Fernando Cardinal Filoni, which was published by Tripod, a magazine put out by the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Aberdeen, Hong Kong (Sunday Examiner, November 4).

Cardinal Tong notes that although pessimists are predicting that the plea from the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples is doomed to fall on deaf ears and say that its timing was bad, he said that he is more optimistic and does not believe that there is ever a bad time to suggest dialogue.

He added that it is too early to be pessimistic, as to date there has been no reaction to the cardinal’s plea one way or the other, as the politburo headed by Xi Jinping is still settling in and is acting with caution and observing things at present.

“Everything would be a lot simpler if Beijing realised that dialogue and openness could benefit Chinese society much more than the Church,” Cardinal Tong said, adding that although he does not expect anything to change overnight, he does believe that China is being called to move forward and will open up gradually.

Even with the new administration in place, he said it will take time for its members to jell and it must also deal with influences from the past, like Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, and the leaders of the military and the Communist Party who want to hold onto their privileges.

However, he said that factors like the increased mobility of the population, especially in the area of international travel, have to have an influence on the development of Chinese society, especially in the area of internationalisation.

He explained that like any new administration, Xi needs time to consolidate and also has a lot of sensitive domestic issues to deal with, but he still believes that the time will come when the Holy See dialogue issue will come onto the agenda.

He added that although the enjoyment of Christ’s love is not dependent upon outside circumstances, pressures can temper it and also rob the Church of resources it could use effectively under a situation of greater religious freedom.

“This would release energy for the creation of a new civilisation instead of everything being reduced to a material concept of progress that ends up fuelling people’s hedonism and egotism,” Cardinal Tong commented.

He also suggested that critics of Cardinal Filoni’s letter may not have read it too carefully, adding that he also noticed that things in China did improve for Church people after the release of the letter to Chinese Catholics penned by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

“In a number of local entities, members of so-called open and illegal communities stopped fighting and attacking each other,” he pointed out to Valente, “and in some cases the two groups actually started getting closer.”


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