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China Commission praises fidelity


VATICAN (SE): “Evangelisation cannot be achieved by sacrificing essential elements of the Catholic faith and discipline,” the Commission for the Catholic Church in China says in a statement released on April 26 from the Vatican.

Established in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI and made up of bishops from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, as well as representatives from religious congregations that have a special commitment to the Church in China, the commission met for three days, from April 23 to 25.

While it spent most of its time reflecting on formation for both religious and lay Catholics in China, in the wake of the recent illicit ordinations of bishops and compromised ceremonies in the past weeks, the commission, while expressing sympathy for the situation the Chinese bishops find themselves in, cautioned them against acting under the sole instructions of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

“Concerning the particular situation of the Church in China, it was noted that the claim of the entities called one Association and One Conference (the Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, both of which are government bodies), to place themselves above the bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, persists,” the statement, released in English and Chinese, reads.

“In this regard, the instructions given in the Letter of Pope Benedict XVI (to Catholics in China in 2007), remain current and provide direction. It is important to observe them so that the face of the Church may shine forth with clarity in the midst of the Chinese people,” it continues.

The commission commented that the clarity expressed in the guidelines laid out by the pope has been blurred by the actions of some bishops, especially those who have been ordained illegitimately, without a mandate from the pope.

It notes that although they understand clearly that they are forbidden to administer any sacraments, they continue to do so, which the commission describes as usurping a power which has not been bestowed upon them by the Church.

“The behaviour of these bishops, in addition to aggravating their canonical status, has disturbed the faithful and often has violated the consciences of the priests and lay faithful who were involved,” the commission statement points out.

The commission notes that bishops who have taken part in illegitimate ordinations, who have sought pardon from the Holy Father, have been forgiven. However, it was critical of those who have not clarified their positions and encouraged them to write to the pope as soon as possible.

“The participants in this plenary meeting follow these painful events with attention and in a spirit of charity,” the statement says.

However, the members pointed out that even though the present situation is extraordinarily difficult, sacrificing the essential elements of the Catholic faith is not a road to evangelisation and will be non-productive in the long run.

The commission spent the bulk of its time reflecting on formation and praised the efforts that have gone into providing programmes for seminarians and sisters in the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral spheres.

It also noted the value of those programmes that have been devised for the ongoing formation of priests, as well as the work of sisters’ congregations in coordinating many of these activities.

Nevertheless, the commission noted that despite the maverick actions of the few, the bulk of the Church in China should be praised for its fidelity in difficult circumstances and the courage people have displayed in living out the faith, often under circumstances of persecution.

It pointed to the priests and bishops, who have been detained, imprisoned, forced to endure long sessions on the law governing the practice of religion by the authorities from Beijing, saying that they have impelled the people to strengthen their fidelity to witness, which is the primary sign still capable of encouraging today’s young men and women to follow Christ with an undivided heart.


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