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Public airing of China’s view

ROME (AsiaNews): Coming from 31 provinces and autonomous regions of China, 365 representatives attended the Ninth Congress of Catholic Representatives at the Tian Tai Beijing Hotel from December 27 to 29.

At the last congress in December 2010, the Vatican had asked the bishops to avoid making gestures... that contradict communion with the pope, but the presence of illicitly ordained bishops on the altar at concelebrated Masses prompted the Vatican to judge the affair as incompatible with Catholic doctrine, as it submitted itself to the authority of the government instead of the Holy See.

Although kept low key, almost every intervention on the opening day of the current congress exalted the independence of the Church from the Holy See as an autonomous and patriotic body.

This was reinforced by Wang Zuo’an, the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, as well as Bishop Fang Xingyao and Bishop Ma Yinglin (not approved by Rome), both of whom were reelected to their top spots in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Church in China.

The drift of the meeting seemed to go down the line of the instruction from the president of China, Xi Jinping, from the National Conference of Religious Work held in April last year, of moving away from western influence, serving the reform and development of the nation, as well as the leadership of the Communist Party.

A statement from the Vatican in the days prior to the congress calling for positive signs from the government and the contrary proceedings on the floor appear to have brought the previously secret talks between the Holy See and Beijing into the public forum.

On the one hand, Beijing has uttered conciliatory words through its Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Hua Chunying, but on the other, an editorial published in the Global Times on December 27 displays a return to the tones and demands of old in laying out the conditions for a constructive dialogue.

Other issues on the agenda included revising government regulations on religious activities, as well as passing amendments to the statutes of the bishops’ conference and the Patriotic Association.

The former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, commented on December 24 that the congress is the most formal and explicit expression of China’s demand for unconditional submission.

One person commented that the Vatican asked for positive signals, but all it got was a slap in the face.

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