Print Version    Email to Friend
China’s lone voice at synod not enough


VATICAN (SE): Even South Sudan, the world’s newest nation was represented at the Synod of Bishops in Rome, which is scheduled to conclude on October 27, but one of the world’s oldest civilisations with a bigger population than any other country, China, managed to score only one lone voice, and that by letter.

Bishop Luke Li Jing Feng, from Fengxiang in Shaanxi province, did manage to make an intervention by letter.

The bishop wrote in his letter that was read on October 16, “I congratulate you who can participate in the synod and pay homage to St. Peter’s Tomb. I am very saddened that you cannot hear any voice from the Chinese Church.”

However, the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, gave the ageing Chinese bishop a boost when he told Philippa Hitchen from Vatican Radio on October 19 that this one tiny voice does not add up to representation at the synod for China and appealed to the authorities in Beijing for more freedom of religion.

He stressed that Beijing should allow representatives of the Church to be involved in affairs of the universal Church.

“I think it is a pity that no Chinese bishop is allowed to attend the synod… We must all pray that one day they will enjoy full religious freedom and the government will enjoy a greater reputation worldwide… So more dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese government is needed,” the cardinal told Philippa Hitchen.

Speaking on the importance of the family in any society, Cardinal Tong said it is also an important part of Chinese culture and custom.

He explained, “Our ancestors taught that we must first convert our own hearts, then care for our families, and from there, reach out to bring peace and harmony to our society and to the wider world.”

Cardinal Tong stressed that is exactly what the Church in China is on about. He then asked how long it will be before the leaders of that Church will be able to take their rightful place at the heart of the universal Church.

In his intervention from afar, Bishop Li said, “I want to say that our Church in China, in particular the laity, has always maintained the piety, fidelity, sincerity and devotion of the first Christians, even whilst undergoing 50 years of persecution.

“I wish to add that I pray intently and constantly to Almighty God that our piety, fidelity, sincerity and devotion may overcome the tepidness, infidelity and secularism that have developed abroad as a result of unrestrained openness and freedom.

“In the Year of Faith, in your synod discussions, you can examine why our faith in China was able to remain indefectible until now. As the great Chinese philosopher, Laozi, put it, ‘As calamity generates prosperity, so in weakness calamity hides.’

“In the Churches outside of China, tepidness, the infidelity and secularism of the faithful have infected the clergy. In the Chinese Church, lay people are more pious than the clergy. And I believe that our faith as Chinese Christians can console the pope. I shall not talk about politics, because they are transient,” Vatican Radio reported on October 17.

Bishop Li penned his letter in Latin and it was read out to the assembly by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, the secretary general of the synod.

The 90-year-old Bishop Li spent 20 years in prison and was only released in 1979. He was born in 1922 and ordained in 1947. He was ordained a bishop in 1980, but not recognised by the government until 30 August 2004.

Cardinal Tong pointed out that at the 1998 and 2005 synods on Asia and the Eucharist, Chinese bishops who have the approval of the Holy See were denied permission to attend.

He explained that Beijing tried to manipulate the situation by then giving them permission to travel on the condition they were accompanied by illicitly ordained bishops, which he noted is unacceptable to the Church.

Cardinal Tong was named by religious reporter, John Allen, from the National Catholic Reporter, as an early front-runner for Mister Nice Guy of the synod.

Allen describes him as quiet, beaming, humble and utterly free of the clerical pretence of stereotypical images of Chinese bishops.

He adds that his was also the first voice in the synod to suggest that outsiders could scrutinise or push the synod fathers, or indicate they may even be willing to listen.


More from this section