Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The news of a new episcopal ordination without papal mandate in Harbin reveals the "incoherence" between the government's liberal claims and the actions of the Patriotic Association. This inconsistency is a sign of the internal struggle between the liberal wing of the party and the other that wants to maintain a complete hold on power as in recent decades. This is how Msgr. Savio Hon Taifai reads the situation in the Church and Chinese society on the eve of Heilongjiang's illegitimate episcopal ordination, that neither the community nor the candidate want. The secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples prays that this gesture which "hurts the Church and the Pope" will not take place, and joins in the prayers and fasting of the faithful themselves in Harbin. He hopes that the candidate remains faithful to the Pope, refusing to be ordained.
For Msgr. Hon, the Chinese Communist Party, devoid of social ideals, has become a patchwork of "interest groups" who are fighting among themselves. It is therefore important to establish common rules for mutual respect. Religions can offer values that are more than simple materialism to the Chinese society as well as moral education. Here is the full interview with AsiaNews.
In recent days, AsiaNews published the news that Harbin (Heilongjiang) is preparing an episcopal ordination without papal mandate. The candidate is 48 year old Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng. But apparently this event is desired only by the government, neither the Church nor the candidate want it. What is your reaction?
For now, the ordination is only a possibility. However, should an unlawful episcopal ordination take place, it would be very, very serious. It hurts the whole Church and especially the Church in China. It hurts even the Holy Father for this gesture usurps the apostolic power of the Pope. This power was granted to Peter and his successors by the Lord himself. The appointment of bishops touches the heart of the Church. Such a thing should never happen.
My first reaction is to pray that this does not happen. Indeed, I have heard that the Harbin faithful are praying and even fasting that this ordination without the pontifical mandate does not take place. The appointment of bishops by the pope is a guarantee for the unity of the Church.
Coming to the candidate, Fr. Yue, we can say that for the past 10 years the government and a part of the official community have been pushing him toward taking on this " bishops career ". But I think he does not want to become a bishop without the mandate of the Holy Father if he wanted to be one, he could have been one already for some time. I trust that this brother cares for the Church and fidelity to the Lord. In the episcopal ministry this fidelity is essential. I pray for him, that he decides to remain loyal to his decision of allegiance to the pope, without causing confusion and division in the community.
Over the past two years there have been three illicit episcopal ordinations in Chengde, Leshan and Shantou. What fruits or consequences have these caused?
There are several problems. The first is that these ordinations create confusion and division among the Christian people of China, between the official and underground communities. Especially among the newly baptized, there are those who do not understand and are left stunned. Unfortunately, this confusion happens even among underground communities. Many of them have always given a shining witness of fidelity to the Church. But some have difficulty forgiving these situations, perhaps because of human frailty or some other reason, and go to the other extreme, which is not compatible with Gospel values.
An illegitimate ordination hurts the hopes of dialogue between the Chinese government and the Chinese Church. And yet the Holy See is left speechless: China today, so modern and tolerant in many respects, however, remains behind on the development of the Catholic Church. Beijing can not understand that the appointment of bishops is a prerogative of Catholics and not the State. If you must give freedom to the Church in China, you must also give freedom to the Pope to choose candidates for the episcopate. All these gestures have obscured the hope of relations between the Holy See and China. Before there were glimmers of hope, now we see only darkness.
Religious freedom and the freedom to choose bishops would be an asset to Chinese society....
Of course. Everyone admires China's development caused by the economic reforms: it says that 300 million Chinese have managed to achieve a decent standard of living, overcoming a stage of underdevelopment. But this material development, over a short space of time, has also created many social problems. The famous saying of Deng Xiaoping, "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, just that it catches mice," creates problems for society because it implies that "the end justifies the means." But this criterion can be ruthless toward others. Even Confucius says: "Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you". This means that sometimes the end cannot be justified by the means! Instead, the pragmatism of the "white or black cat," leads to moral and environmental pollution. This is why China today is in need of a long process of education to instill respect for others. If there is no education for the individual, family, society, then all that matters is power and money.
In this where the Church and religions could make a contribution to Chinese society?
Of course. Religions in China still have a strong role in driving great change in the country. And the gospel is still very relevant and urgent for China.
With the illicit ordinations we are witnessing a strange mingling: the bishops in communion with the Pope obliged to attend unlawful ordinations; ordinations approved of by the Holy See attended by - even if not invited - illegitimate bishops. According to some observers this seems to be a real political plan to destroy the criteria of truth and orthodoxy in the Church, and undermine bonds with the Pope ...
The Patriotic Association has a very clear agenda on how to have more precise control of the Church. This mingling of bishops, to confuse the difference between legitimate and illegitimate, obedient and excommunicated, is part of this strategy. But I wonder: what is real aim of the Patriotic Association in bringing forward this project of building an "independent" church, yet another edition of Protestantism?
This seems to be the intention of government that instead increasingly emphasizes the importance of a more liberal society. And then, if Catholics choose their bishops through the pope, you have to leave space for Catholics to live as Catholics.
It means that there is inconsistency between the liberal claims of government and the actions of the Patriotic Association?
Yes. This inconsistency is a sign of power struggle that is taking place within the Party. Now the party is no longer supported by an ideology and a social project; socialism or Marxism no longer exist. What then is the purpose of controlling the Church? The power: those who exercised power before want to keep it. The party is now made up of interest groups that fight for their own interests and fight among themselves.
I honestly do not know how much longer they can maintain a system of this type. If we talk about interests or interest groups, sooner or later, they should make the rules for them to coexist peacefully, respect each other.
The so-called party of "princes" (Taizitang, "Crown-Prince's Party") is based on this determined defense of the sons of the Party's great power brokers. But there must be rules. Especially now that the central government's orders are not reaching the periphery. We are no longer under Mao Zedong. Now Beijing can say one thing and in some provinces do anything. For this reason we need to share the responsibilities and powers, by establishing some rules and values.