Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A prophet and a hero, this is how many Chinese Catholics -
and we with them - define the first steps of the newly elected auxiliary bishop
Msgr. Ma Thaddeus Daqin. In just one day, the day of his consecration on July
7, he rejected the imposition of hands by an excommunicated bishop; did not
drink from the same cup of the illicit bishop; publicly resigned from the
Patriotic Association (PA), considering this an obstacle to his "pastoral
and evangelization work."
Affairs Bureau did not like this perfectly aimed blow and has confined him to
house arrest in the Sheshan seminary, for a forced period of "rest".
In carrying out these gestures Msgr. Ma simply claimed religious freedom for
his commitment as a bishop, a principle which also the Chinese constitution
defends. Only that alongside the constitution there are provincial and national
regulations that subject the life of Christian community and their pastors to
controls, threats, flattery, bribery, putting up every possible obstacle to the
commitment to evangelization.
gestures Msgr. Ma also affirms that the ordination of a pastor is not a
political issue manipulated by those in power, but a religious act in which the
pope and his instructions are to be respected for the sake of truth.
From this point of view, Msgr. Ma has made the same choice which the Church's
unofficial communities and bishops (underground) have been struggling to uphold
in the name of safeguarding the freedom to evangelize, risking imprisonment,
detention, isolation and marginalization.
But he is a hero
because the pollution in the political life of the Church in China had
reached dangerous levels. After the Letter of Benedict XVI to Chinese Catholics
- in which the pope declared the principles that underpin the Patriotic
Association (to build a Church independent of the Holy See) "incompatible
with Catholic doctrine" - The leaders of the Association have launched a
campaign to defend their existence. Faced with bishops who affirmed their
loyalty to the pope, they began to choose bishops easy to compromise with the
Party, engaged in politics, government representatives. At the ordination of
bishops approved of by the pope, they began to impose the participation of
excommunicated bishops; they also began to force bishops in communion with the
Pope to participate in illicit ordinations - those without Papal approval. All
this to say that the license of orthodoxy or legitimacy does not belong to the
Roman pope, but the presidents and secretaries of the Patriotic Association.
Counteracting this miasma of ambiguities and equivicocies, the
prophetic gesture of Daqin Ma has arisen, like "a ray of sunshine in a dark
Bishop Ma is the first official bishop to resign from the PA and many Chinese
Catholics hope that others will follow him.
Moreover, being a member of the PA has now become counterproductive, for
religious reasons. First of all ideological ones and then theological ones: a
Church separated from the pope is not the Catholic Church, but just another
Protestant church which is likely - as has happened many times in history - to
become a sect increasingly emptied of its spiritual character and which
survives only thanks to the good will of political power.
Belonging to the
PA is also an obstacle to pastoral work: the bishops are obliged to continue to
travel, to attend meetings and formation programs, staying away from their
dioceses to for months at a time, to hear the empty and boring theories on the
control of religion, the benevolent power of 'the Association, forced to
express "profound gratitude" to the god-association that allows them
to survive. When they finally get to be in their diocese, their every
encounter, or personal relationship is authenticated, verified, registered,
permitted or cancelled by the PA.
Being a PA prop
has also become socially embarrassing. While the Chinese people suffer from a
deep economic crisis, with inflation making it increasingly difficult to scrap
together a meal every day, PA secretaries and presidents are famous for their
spending and largesse at the expense of the government and the diocese, in
hotels luxury, with banqueting facilities for up to 24-course meals, of refined
and expensive foods, while in the diocese, especially those in the rural areas,
it is a struggle to procure clean water or provide a minimum of medical care to
report by the same government denounces that every year Party members spend
around 31.5 billion Euros on banquets, a sum capable of feeding at least one
hundred million people for a whole year. Faced with such a corruption of
political power, it is also convenient to the bishops to distance themselves in
order to fulfill their mission placing themselves of the side of Christ and the
Bishop Ma's decision is prophetic and destined to make history. It is probable
that some bishops remain attached to the PA. It's where they get their
chauffeur driven car from, their new Episcopal palaces, money, fame, treats:
the famous "opportunists" bishops of which Benedict XVI has once
spoken. We fear that these are only "tasteless salt" who serve no other purpose than to be walked upon.
It is worthwhile
remembering that even now many faithful are putting pressure on their bishops
to pay more attention to living their Episcopal ministry, rather than their
political role. In the years after Mao Zedong, the lay faithful forced many
fearful bishops to contact the Holy See to be reunited - after decades of
ambiguity - with the One Catholic Church. Even today, the lay faithful
demonstrate their faith and their love for Christ and the bishops deserting
masses where the pastors are illegal and transmigrating into other dioceses loyal
to the spiritual bond with Benedict XVI.