CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 25 May 2019

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Obedience shows the true nature of loyalty

Father Paul Han Qingping of China, offers his inside perspective on
the recent handover of episcopal authority in Mindong province, China,
which was published by Vatican News on December 17
 
 
The news has been circulating rather fast that, witnessed by the delegate of the Holy See Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin of the Diocese of Mindong Diocese and Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, who was legitimised not long ago by Pope Francis, changed roles according to Church regulations (Sunday Examiner, December 23), with Bishop Zhan now functioning as the ordinary of the diocese as Bishop Guo steps aside to become the auxiliary. 
 
At the same time, Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian of the Diocese of Shantou officially retired, giving way to Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, who was also legitimised along with Bishop Zhan and five others. 
 
As for the others, since there are no unofficial bishops in their respective dioceses, the have been named the ordinaries.
 
A stone stirs up a thousand waves! In addition to some so-called Church media overseas, who once again use a sarcastic tone to not only look down upon the provisional agreement signed on September 22 between China and the Vatican, but also insinuate the submission and surrender of the Holy See and the unofficial bishops, from within the Church in China also came some exclamations of disbelief: 'What? The bishops of the loyal Church gave up their positions and principles to which they held firm for many years?!'
 
In response to such insinuation and exclamation, Father Luo Wen, a former student of Bishop Guo who has been working in the Mindong for many years, wrote an article titled, The Loyalty of Mindong Diocese. It not only details the history and current situation of the diocese but also explains their understanding and practice of the word loyalty. 
 
Father Luo writes: “Over the years, we have adhered to the 'underground' route. Its nature seems to contradict the acceptance of Zhan Silu as our bishop today, but it is not contradictory in essence. Since everyone calls the underground Church “(the) loyal Church,” then what is the meaning of this loyalty? 
 
This loyalty means being loyal to a higher authority—to Church tradition and the representative of Christ. 
 
In the beginning, we chose to take the underground route because the Holy See did not recognise the official bishops; therefore, we refused to be in sacramental communion with them. 
 
“Today we accept the official bishop as our bishop, also because of the command of the Holy See. In this way, the original refusal is exactly the same as today’s acceptance... In our time of education and formation, he (Bishop Guo) often told us that, in choosing this route, we must be psychologically prepared to stand aside some day. The purpose is only to maintain the integrity of the faith, not for the personal power and glory. In the future, once the relationship between China and the Vatican becomes normal, we have to stand aside. 
 
“In addition to political factors, after all, the education we receive is not as formal as the open Church. We can be inferior to others in terms of knowledge, but we have no reason to become an underground person in terms of obedience and humility...
 
“In the afternoon of the day before yesterday, Bishop Guo made the announcement to all the priests during the meeting that, from now on, he has ceased to be the Ordinary Bishop of Mindong Diocese and called on everyone to accept and obey Bishop Zhan Silu in faith. There is no priest standing up to rebel. Isn’t such a diocese and such a community the proof that God’s special grace has been there for a long time?”
 
As an eyewitness of both the past and the present, Father Luo's testimony and interpretation are far more authentic than the individuals and media who make judgments based on hearsay and subjective speculations. The reason I quote a large part of his article is that I was truly moved by the understanding and practice of loyalty by the unofficial Church community under the leadership of Bishop Guo. 
 
Such a spirit and true nature are not limited to Bishop Guo and his community only. For now, just take as typical examples Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of the Diocese the Qiqihar and Bishop Peter Jin Lugang of the Diocese of Nanyang. As early as February 2018, they clearly expressed their positions through interviews with the Vatican Insider.
 
On February 16 Bishop Wei Jingyi expressed two main points: “We are grateful to overseas friends for their love and care for the unofficial Church community, but due to the very different situations from place to place, I beg our friends outside of mainland China, including those from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and all the other continents, please not to speak on behalf of the clandestine Church. I ask you for it is not you who can represent the underground Church in China;” and “Following what faith suggests to me, on my own behalf and on behalf of the community entrusted by God to my pastoral care, I want to solemnly declare: regardless of how the relations between China and the Vatican will go, we will wholly obey the decision of the pope and the Holy See, whatever it may be. And we will not question it either.”
 
Bishop Jin’s interview was published on February 24 and can also be summarised in the following points: “The suffering we endured in the past was for and with Jesus, no regrets whatsoever!”; and “We endured all the difficulties so as not to hide our communion with the pope. And now, if there is an understanding between the Pope and the government, how can we not be happy about it? How can we not follow him?”
 
Indeed, the word loyal is easier said than done! 
 
However, from the statements and actions of Bishop Wei and Bishop Jin, it is not difficult to see that, although they have experienced a lot of sacrifices, pressures and criticism in the process, they deeply understand that the understanding and practice of their loyalty is based on faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to pope and the Holy See, not for personal interests, protectionism, ideology, or political tricks under the guise of the fashionable “loyalty.” 
 
The Church in China and even the universal Church should learn from them and pay tribute to their true and unquestionable spirit and nature of loyalty and offer prayers and blessings for their continuing hard works on the given pastures! Vatican News
 
 
Father Paul Han studied Missiology and Church History abroad between 1996 and 2006. After his priestly ordination he returned to China and currently works in a
pastoral charity organisation providing social assistance to the poor and those affected by natural disasters. He also teaches Church History in a seminary and leads retreats
for the laity and religious communities. Readers can visit his personal blog here: http://blog.sina.com.cn/blessedone.

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