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Where words and actions 
do not meet

A bishop ordained with the permission of the pope and the approval of the government in Beijing should have been a day of rejoicing for the Catholic people of China. However, in the wash up, it turned out to be one more painful lesson in the determination of government officials not to allow the Church any freedom in conducting its own affairs.

Despite government rhetoric proclaiming that it is keen to have good relationships with the Church and that it is prepared to respect the internal customs and laws of religious bodies, it continues on its path of feigning respect, while at the same time forcing religious bodies to redefine their internal customs and rules to its own liking.

The archbishop of Taipei, Taiwan, noted that the corner grocery store has more autonomy than the Catholic Church in mainland China.

“Companies that open offices in China have the right to appoint people of their choosing to run their businesses. By contrast, Beijing wants to choose the bishops of the Catholic Church. In other words, the Church has fewer rights than the ordinary store,” Archbishop Peter Hung Shan-chuan told AsiaNews.

And it is not just corner grocery stores, as multinational corporations broker deals with Beijing that allow them to appoint staff of their own choosing, without undue interference from the authorities.

So why the fear? If Beijing is not afraid of multinationals, but on the contrary welcomes and even panders to their needs, what is the big deal about religion and the Catholic Church?

The newly ordained bishop, Father Peter Luo Xuegang, seemed to be cruising towards a happy ordination day. But in October we see him waxing eloquent in defence of China’s self-choose and self-ordain policy on bishops.

Maybe it was a hint that something was wrong and all was not going to go according to plan. It has even been suggested that it may have been a trade off with the authorities to allow his long-delayed ordination to go ahead.

But one week beforehand it was rumoured that the illicitly ordained bishop, Father Paul Lei Shiyin, would attend the ordination, but in what capacity was still under wraps.

Father Lei has been told by the Holy See that he can be presumed to be in a state of excommunication, at least until he can provide evidence to counter the presumption.

He has also been instructed not to wear the insignia of a bishop or take part in the administration of any sacraments. Yet he not only attended Father Lou’s ordination, but participated as one of the co-ordaining bishops.

At least on the surface, this is an act of direct defiance of the Vatican, which he pushed further by insinuating that the Holy See should keep its head out of it by telling the press that something good for the Church in China was happening in a rational manner.

Everyone involved in the ordination is now under a cloud, including the newly ordained bishop, whom it seems, went along with the disruptive plan.

But in the meantime, people are left with the distinct impression that the Church poses an enormous threat to the People’s Republic of China and needs to be watched closely, whereas in fact, it is a body of good people, with a deep love for both their neighbour and their country. JiM