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Don’t hold your breath waiting for a reply from Beijing


HONG KONG (UCAN): A bishop and some priests from mainland China have told Fernando Cardinal Filoni not to hold his breath waiting for a reply to his impassioned appeal to Beijing to open a dialogue with the Vatican.

The bishop, who did not wish to be named, told UCA News, “The government will not make any response, because its top priority is to maintain stability on the eve of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and ensure the smooth transition of the state leadership.”

Nevertheless, he added that he found the Vatican cardinal’s appeal encouraging to himself and the Catholic people of China. “It may remind those bishops with vested interests to be more faithful and dutiful,” he commented.

Cardinal Filoni, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, issued a message on October 25, entitled, Five years after the publication of Benedict XVI’s letter to the Church in China (Sunday Examiner, November 4).

While reiterating the Church’s stance, the cardinal showed his openness to reopening a c with the Chinese authorities in an attempt to overcome the current impasse in Sino-Holy See relations.

A parallel report from Fides, spelled out the cardinal’s hope for the creation of a high-level commission between China and the Vatican.

Bishop Joseph, who is not recognised by the government, predicts that if there is a response, it will lack sincerity. “From our past experience we know that the government and the official Church community talk a lot of hot air,” he commented.

Citing the experience of the birdcage bishop who has virtually been confined to Sheshan Seminary since he publicly announced at this ordination in Shanghai on July 7 that he would quit his post in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, he said, “Everyone sings praises to his bravery, but isn’t this actually the most basic expression of our faith?”

He then asked how many bishops in the official Church communities would dare to follow Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin in such a declaration to quit a government-sponsored association.

In his appeal, Cardinal Filoni named three obstacles to re-establishing dialogue—the state’s control over the Church, the government’s rigorous control of bishops’ appointments and the interference of illegitimate bishops in episcopal ordinations.

“It is meaningful for the prefect to point out those three stumbling blocks,” Bishop Joseph said, “but he needs to add something more concrete, such as what measures may be taken against those who create stumbling blocks in the future.”

A priest who writes under the pen name, Reverse Thinking, also expressed his reservations.

“Cardinal Filoni said the Church in China was never schismatic. But after the illicit ordinations taking place repeatedly, many Catholics can no longer distinguish right from wrong,” he pens.

“The faithful tend to believe their bishops were forced to participate in the illicit ordinations. This became a shield for bishops who pretended to be innocent even though they violated canon law,” he continues.

“So far I haven’t heard any bishop dare to confess his fault in front of the faithful. Instead, they explain they were under pressure to participate in the illicit ordinations in order to win sympathy from the faithful and the Vatican, which offsets the effect of the Holy See’s warnings and excommunications, turning them into empty words.”

Father Anthony, a Chinese student in Rome, said it would be wishful thinking to believe that the Vatican’s sincerity can move the Chinese to dialogue, as state leaders are interested only in the economy, not religion.

“I don’t think the Vatican officials understand China very well,” he said. “They are too far apart. In China, both in society and the Church, everyone is busy keeping their own rice bowl full, particularly those at senior level. So I don’t have any hope for China-Vatican relations in the near future.”


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