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Liu’s death has lessons for the Vatican

HONG KONG (UCAN): In lamenting the premature death of 61-year-old Liu Xiaobo at the First Hospital of the China Medical University in Shenyang on July 13, Bangkok-based Michael Sainsbury says that the world has now seen the death of one of its bravest human beings and greatest citizens of modern day China.
Sainsbury notes in an article published by UCAN that the untimely death of the man adopted by Christians in Hong Kong as a prophet and embraced as a martyr also has many lessons for the Vatican in the context of its current series of dialogue sessions with Beijing.
He notes that already at least two bishops, including Bishop James Su Zhimin, from Baoding, who has been in prison since 1997, along with Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, from Yixian, who died at the end of January 2015 after 14 years in prison, have disappeared into the bowels of the Chinese system.
“Now the Holy See and Beijing are in negotiations on the appointment of bishops, while in the background, the Communist Party continues cracking down on any Chinese Catholic official seemingly stepping out of line,” Sainsbury points out.
He then points to the bishop of Shanghai, who has been under house arrest and great pressure since 2012 when he made his stand against the Communist Party at his ordination ceremony in St. Ignatius’ Cathedral in July of that year.
But while Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin may now be headed toward some sort of reconciliation with Beijing, what appears to have been a forced appearance with the illicitly ordained Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu on the altar in Mindong on Easter Sunday this year, tells the world that not all is well with him.
Meanwhile in Wenzhou, Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin remains in unlawful custody and for what the local people are describing as an unusually long time.
It is the fourth occasion he has been picked up by the authorities since he was confirmed by the Vatican as the bishop of Wenzhou last September, when as coadjutor of the diocese to Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang, he took the reigns upon his predecessor’s death last year.
Sainsbury calls the case openly vexing for the Vatican, as the late bishop had recognition from the Chinese government and Bishop Shao does not, but placing him in charge of both the official and unofficial communities puts what was a bold experiment in jeopardy.
The Vatican took the unusual step of openly expressing its concern over the treatment of Bishop Shao in a public statement which then produced a backlash from Beijing.
Sainsbury suggests that this may be a coded way for the Vatican of expressing its frustration with the way the dialogue with Beijing is going, but either way, he notes that it is a moot point.
“The point is that the Communist Party continues to see Christianity and indeed all organised religion as a threat. As such it treats these organisations that cross ever-moving lines on what is tolerated and what is not with precisely the same ruthless inhumanity that was meted out to Liu,” Sainsbury notes.
He then adds, “It is not just individuals or organisations that the party punishes, but states as well. After handing Liu the Noble Prize for Peace, Norway was put in the diplomatic deep freeze and only let out last year. Still, the Nobel committee admirably stuck to its guns with its statement on Liu’s death.”
He then comments that there is so much tragedy enshrined in these events that it is difficult to know where to begin unravelling it.
However, he says that as the world mourns the death of Liu and continues to be concerned about the welfare of his wife and so many others under the heel of the Communist Party, Pope Francis, his secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, and his negotiating team should ponder whether the preservation of the Church’s structures and hierarchy are worth turning even the hint of a blind eye towards the Communist Party’s treatment of its people.

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