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Vatican communiqué on China gets good reception

HONG KONG (UCAN): The April 26 communiqué from the Vatican Commission for the Catholic Church in China was described by Sister Beatrice Leung Kit-fun as being encouraging, but still leaving some practical problems that need to be addressed.

The Macau-based professor of politics said that the Vatican has taken a consolidation approach towards the Church in China, by focussing on better formation for lay people.

“While relations with the Chinese government are tense, the Vatican is wise to settle internal problems within the Church first,” she said on May 4.

The commission discussed the topic of formation among lay people for the first time since it was established in 2007. “Many laypeople are now demanding more formation. This is a sign of healthy development and maturity from the Church,” Sister Leung said.

She added that this highlights the contribution the bridge Churches of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can make to the life of Catholic people on the mainland.

Sister Leung added that unlike past years, the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting this year does not refer to the Chinese government.

She explained that she believes this is an acknowledgement that the current climate is not good for dialogue, which is complicated by the upcoming change in top leadership in Beijing at the end of the summer.

She described religion as being like a skin infection which is irritating, but not fatal, for the Chinese government, saying that it ultimately becomes a relatively minor issue on the list of things to be done.

Other comments said that overall the communiqué is positive, not just in terms of its emphasis on formation, but also on outreach to others through witness to the faith and the role of the vocation to the priesthood.

However, a young priest from central China was not optimistic. “We have done a lot, but produced little,” he said, referring to what he called the low number of baptisms around China over the Easter period.

 “The Church has invested much in hardware, but how much has it spent on evangelisation?” he asked. He added that while the communiqué has given concrete guidelines on formation for lay people, “The key problem is how to put this into practice in dioceses and parishes.”

He said that although parishioners help, it is mostly on a voluntary basis, as heavy family pressures restrict the time they have available.

He said that in his opinion, the time has come for the Church to look into employing full-time, paid catechists.

A bishop called the communiqué an earnest expectation, which gives sincere encouragement to Catholics in China.

“They are hoping they will grow in a spirit of charity, be nourished in the doctrine of faith, enhance their sense of belonging and spirituality, and live out a loving life by loving family and loving our country,” he said.

“It is a reminder to us not only to uphold principles, but also pay attention to the spirit and essence of evangelisation, ensuring the China Church can bear witness to Jesus Christ in communion with the universal Church,” the bishop concluded.

A bishop called the communiqué an earnest expectation, which gives sincere encouragement to Catholics in China

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