09/21/2018, 14.19
CHINA-VATICAN
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'The voice of Chinese Catholics is missing from China-Vatican dialogue'

by Shan Ren Shen Fu (山人神父)

The possible agreement between Beijing and the Vatican will be signed without the presence of any Chinese Catholics. Not only, the members of the Church in China are being kept totally in the dark about what is being discussed, even if  those involved claim to speak of "ecclesial matters". The analysis of a priest-blogger in an article immediately taken down by the police who censor the internet in China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - In the China-Vatican dialogue which, according to many different rumors, should reach an agreement by the end of September, the voice of the Chinese Church is missing. And if the Vatican also represents the Chinese Church, why are Chinese Catholics kept in the dark and nothing is communicated to them about what is being discussed? These are some perplexities expressed by a Chinese priest on his blog. Another perplexity expressed by Shanren Shenfu (the name of the priest-blogger) is on the "ecclesial" character of the agreement, which instead seems to have only political connotations. His friends, who sent us this text, fear for his safety. The priest points out that, knowing nothing about this agreement, "we do not really know whether we must rejoice or if we must expect a heavier cross". However, he remains amazed that the possible signature of the agreement takes place while completley ignoring "the reality of the faith in China, all kinds of persecution and difficulties that are taking place".With great diligence, the internet police immediately took down his reflection, which we publish in full below. 

Legal? Really?

By the end of September 2018, the Vatican delegation will be in Beijing to conduct the last round of talks between Beijing and the Holy See. If both sides have no disputes, then they will sign the Agreement.

In his article “Global Times: Sino-Vatican agreement on bishops approaches”, Gianni Valente cited the Global Times as saying: “The dialogue takes place "on the religious level", leaving out the political dimensions including the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican. In the same article he also speaks of the many "false alarms" launched by lobbyists and agents against the Sino-Vatican agreement.” This is from the official English version of the Global Times, which is Chinese communist media, so, it seems to be credible!

We are also ignorant of the Agreement. We always thought that the negotiation team of the Chinese delegation has contained at least one representative with religious belief from the Catholic Church in China (Patriotic Association and Bishops’ Council). However, after consulting several well-informed persons, I came to realize that nobody from the Church in China qualified to be on the negotiation team. Like Archbishop Savio Hon, who has been assigned to Greece as nuncio early this year. That is to say, those sitting opposite the Vatican delegation are exclusively government officials, representing China’s political interests; and they do not believe in God or are atheists. On the other hand, those sitting opposite to the Chinese delegates are Church representatives full of vigor and fantasies of evangelizing in China, and are well received with great courtesy by the Chinese authorities.

Let us not talk about how the freedom of religious belief is guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution, nor about how Chinese officials should abide by the Constitution. We just want to ask: how can the non-religious Chinese representatives and the religious Vatican representatives talk about the “religious matters” of the Sino-Vatican Agreement at a negotiating table without any political implications? Which side on the negotiation table is representing and defending the interests of the Catholic Church in China? If the Vatican represents the interests of Chinese believers before China, does that mean that it recognizes the interests of Catholic believers before China? Does it mean the Vatican has already been recognized as a leader of the Chinese Church in the Catholic faith?

If this is in the mind of China that the Vatican has no right to represent the interests of the Chinese Church, the interests of the Church in China are only represented by the Chinese Government (the non-believers uphold the first political interests, and not of the interest of faith), then how can they say the dialogue only deals with religious aspects? What is the basis of it?

In other words, if the content of the Agreement is only of religious nature, then it is impossible to have no one there to represent the interests of the Chinese Church because Chinese officials do not have religious beliefs. Then, should the Vatican with faith be the one? If so, why cannot they allow Chinese believers to know a little bit about the content of the Agreement before it is signed? It is because, if we can discern in our heart the situation after signing the Agreement, then we don’t really know if we could rejoice or bear a heavier cross.

Unfortunately, apart from the negotiators of the talks, nobody knows about the content of the Agreement. Not only that, nobody knows now, but in the future as well. It is because both sides have pledged that the content of the Agreement will never be disclosed. It has been said that the Agreement between the Vatican and socialist countries will not go public, as a general practice.

So what has been discussed at the negotiation table is merely: Vatican admits that seven illegitimate bishops appointed by the Chinese government, including those, whom the Vatican pronounced publicly excommunicated bishops; and those who were appointed by the Vatican but have not publicly recognized to work legally in society. The Agreement only says it will be dealt with slowly. The final decision-maker of the bishop's appointment, as revealed so far in relation to the Agreement, appears to be the pope, but it is very likely to become something like “he will be the one to accept or not to accept”, or to become the same type of forced helplessness as it does not agree with him. After all, the Agreement will recognize the seven illegitimate bishops. On the surface, it appears that the Vatican has nothing additional or value of this exchange. Why Vatican, by all means, must do it like this? What does it do for the Church in China tomorrow? Only God knows!

Valente, who has always published information on the Sino-Vatican agreement well ahead of others, describes the "false alarms" as coming from "lobbies and agents". He believes that there are people working full time in interpreting the possible agreements between Beijing and the Vatican from a purley political perspective, and this is confirmed by his indirect quotation of the Global Times, for which "the key passages … indirectly confirm the criteria for the pastoral objectives that move the Holy See in dealing with the delicate events of Catholicism in China".

The idea of a new space for improving the living environment of the Catholics and opening the door to all to show a communion with the Roman Church would be the best outcome of the signing of the Agreement if it did not evolve into a journalist's wishful thinking.

Can the Agreement be signed? It also depends if the negotiation in Beijing goes smoothly by the end of September. How can we be possibly and reluctantly to completely ignore the reality of Chinese belief, all kinds of persecutions and difficulties are taking place.

This is perhaps my last article about the Sino-Vatican Agreement. Just a rough count, I have written more than 30 short articles about Sino-Vatican Agreement. Lately a friend asked me: "Are you like many others who feel numb to this issue?”

I smiled, and felt embarrassed and did not answer. However, I still believe: “God's wisdom will be justified by all her children.”  (Luke 7:35)

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