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A Church in need of support

HONG KONG (SE): In a call to the universal Church to give its support in any way it can, Father Sergio Ticozzi says that a recent visit to the mainland has left him quite rattled at seeing the difficulties that Catholic people are facing in their everyday faith lives.
The Italian priest from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and former member of the staff at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Aberdeen in Hong Kong says that irrespective of whether they belong to the registered official community or the unregistered unofficial community, those who want to be truly loyal to their faith and to the Church hoe a difficult row.
Although he admits that many of these problems are not particularly new, as they have been the bugbear of Catholic people in China for decades, in many ways the tightening of both practice and regulations from the authorities towards the Church have brought old worries to a head again.
But on top of this, Father Ticozzi says that the current dialogue going on between Beijing and the Vatican is leaving many people wondering, as the very clandestine nature of what is being discussed has led to many rumours and in a Church that lives behind the curtains, rumours can run wild like a forest fire in a dry summer.
But he said the one thing that came as a surprise is the cunning pressure that is being applied to members of both expressions of the Church, firstly from the civil authorities, but also from those people within the Church who collaborate with them.
He also notes that while the official Church is being attacked in extremely subtle ways and often from within its own ranks, the government is overtly attempting to eliminate the unregistered communities.
“In their daily lives, these people really get the runaround and have to deal with opportunists and two-faced people who lie to them,” he notes.
In addition, he says that within the Church people suffer from the interference and abuse of corrupt government officials who manage to unduly influence both bishops and priests, sometimes with threats and sometimes with bribes, leaving people unsure how to act in the dealings with the clergy.
Father Ticozzi points out that it is well known that bishops who are recognised by the Holy See hold positions of authority in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which the people know proclaims a Church that is independent from Rome and promotes illicit ordination, as well as other things that are incompatible with Catholic doctrine.
“Then there are bishops who take part in illegitimate episcopal ordinations and concelebrate with excommunicated bishops,” he points out, as well as “priests who proclaim themselves bishops. Then there are priests who are ordained by illegitimate bishops.”
Father Ticozzi says this leaves many people wondering who their true shepherds are and who they can receive the sacraments from.
But he points out that the new piece in the puzzle is the Vatican-Beijing dialogue, partly because many people are not really sure what it is and partly because of the rumours that are being spread.
“Some,” he says, “asked me if Rome was really accepting the government policy to exterminate the unofficial community, or whether it wanted them to join the Patriotic Association.”
But he explained that they deal with their uncertainties in different ways. Some hide themselves away, seeking their guidance and nourishment only from their priests, whereas others attempt to deal with the complexities and contradictions as best they can.
He points out that either way, many difficulties present themselves, as hiding is not healthy and dealing with complexities with only uncertain knowledge is extremely difficult.
Either way, Father Ticozzi says that the Church in China is in real need of support from the universal Church.

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