Print Version    Email to Friend
Sino-Vatican talks demand a conversion

HONG KONG (SE): “A Chinese bishops’ conference in communion with the pope. All these bishops will be people who are converted to walk together towards the kingdom of God,” Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi, the leader of the unofficial Church community in Qiqihar, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, told AsiaNews.

As part of a lengthy reflection on the letter on Sino-Vatican negotiations published by the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, in the Sunday Examiner and the Kung Kao Po under the title of Communion of the Church in China with the universal Church, on August 7, Bishop Wei describes this vision as beautiful, saying that it is his earnest prayer that it may become a reality.

He points out that Cardinal Tong begins with a description of the manner in which God communicates with his people, saying that we should use the same perspective to look at the dialogue between the Holy See and Beijing.

“It is because of this that he can anticipate developments which are so important and positive,” Bishop Wei says.

“This is what we have hoped to see for a long time, what we have long prayed for. The community of Chinese faithful will have no objection. But we also hope that this will be accompanied by the fruit of conversion in us all,” Bishop Wei continued.

However, he is adamant that it is not good enough for people to simply sit back and wait for others to do the job, as an essential part of the whole process demands a conversion from everyone in the Church as well.

The bishop couched his reflection in the context of the parable of The Prodigal Son, saying that it is necessary to look at and study the concrete condition of the son when he found himself among the pigs in a country far away from the comfort of his father’s estate.

He said that on the day when the errant son dragged himself into the arms of his father he would have stunk like the pigs and surely would have washed himself before he dared to enter the house, as no one wants to be close to people who stink.

He added that if all the son had wanted to do was to return to the pig sty and splash around in their stinky mud, then he would not have been begging for forgiveness in the first place, as he would not have wanted to have been freed from the filth and foul odour.

Bishop Wei said that at this time in Chinese society there is a deep need for moral reference points, because it is a society riddled with corruption which destroys everyone and, without a firm decision not to go back to corrupt ways, a person has no identity, no sense of belonging and would be setting out on a road to isolation.

In applying this parable to the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, he pointed out that if all people do is give assent to something, but then return to their old ways, then the Church and the bishops will become more isolated from the people of God.

However, on the bright side, he said he believes that the initiative of the Vatican and the Chinese government has tapped a deep aspiration for good and a will to do things out of a sense of promoting the common good.

“And in this way in my opinion, a climate is spreading that is conducive to the spirit of the gospel. We see that we can work together,” he stated.

Bishop Wei stressed that this is not a time for a deepening of divisions in the Church in China, but one of believing that God is acting, which he interpreted as a call for hope.

“Chinese society expects a positive and constructive contribution from us Christians,” Bishop Wei said, adding, “The risk is that we will not take advantage of this favourable circumstance, because we are distracted and get lost in other things.”

To stand back from the current process and not at least be involved in trying to make it work, he likened to refusing to proclaim the gospel at precisely the moment when we should be standing with open arms to welcome the initiative with joy.

However, Bishop Wei admitted that the big block to progress is the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, saying that he hopes that one day it may become a thing of the past.

“So many have bad memories of the role it has played in so many situations, so the important thing to do is to find a new way for the Catholic people to express their love for their homeland,” Bishop Wei said.

He also had harsh words to say about the widespread conjecture of what may or may not be in the heart of the caged bishop of Shanghai, saying, “No one can afford to judge, defame or trash others as traitors. What can we possibly know about what is in the heart of Thaddeus Ma Daqin, after the experience he has lived and after he was prevented for four years from becoming a bishop.”

More from this section