Vatican City (AsiaNews) - We are all very saddened by the death of Mgr Aloysius Jin Luxian, who was called to heaven today. As bishop, he had reconciled with the Holy Father and his appointment had been approved. I pray for him and I would really like to go to his funeral.
I met Mgr Jin for the first time in the early '90s, when he invited me to teach at Sheshan seminary. I was close to him; first of all, because he was very friendly, even paternal towards me; secondly, because I really appreciated his qualities as a man, his very openness, involved in educating the faithful, seminarians, nuns and priests. Every day after lunch, he spent always some time with his priests. We must also remember his language skills and his abilities as a translator, which he honed even when he was in prison.
He was a very active pastor. In recent years, he had done a lot for the growth of the Christian community in Shanghai, especially the official one.
We should remember his commitment to the publication of the Bible in Chinese, as well as of works on the liturgy, spirituality, and theology. He also built a centre for education and spiritual retreats, provided and maintained some basic services for the elderly in Shanghai, restored churches . . . . His diocese has become increasingly important. In light of its financial means, it has not failed to show its solidarity to the other sister dioceses, welcoming for example many priests from other places, helping convents of nuns in other parts of China.
At some point, he began thinking about the diocese's future and his successor. As early as 2005, he had proposed Mgr Joseph Xing Wenzhi as a candidate. With this in mind, he consulted his underground colleague, Bishop Fan Zhongliang, as well as the government, and got both the latter's permission and the Holy See's authorisation. Unfortunately, in 2010 Bishop Xing asked for personal reasons not to be the successor in this diocese.
Bishop Jin then picked another candidate. He consulted the community, got a green light from the government, and obtained the pontifical mandate for Mgr Thaddeus Ma Daqin. When the Holy See gave its permission, and since there were still two bishops, Mgr Ma was appointed auxiliary bishop. Since the two bishops were very old, it was clear that the intention was to make him the successor. The government went along with this, and in the end recognised him as "bishop coadjutor of Shanghai."
Following the so-called 'bishops' conference', he lost the appointment. However, the Holy See responded by reiterating the principle that no bishops' conference, anywhere in the world, has the power to revoke a pontifical mandate, the more so since the conference in question was not recognised by the Vatican. Hence, Mgr Ma Daqin is the bishop of Shanghai, a situation that was eventually worked out with the government.
Looking back at the history of the diocese in the last 60 years, which was a time of hardships for men and women religious as well as priests, we can say that Mgr Jin tried to do what was good for the Church, but even by his fellow Jesuits often misunderstood his intentions.
Yet, he had the courage to ask for forgiveness and seek reconciliation with the Holy Father. In his pastoral letter to the diocese of Shanghai, he often stressed the importance of love, forgiveness, and internal purification in the Church.
Even Pope Francis, which has a statue of Our Lady of Sheshan (a shrine near Shanghai), has a very vivid and personal memory of his fellow Jesuits in China. I learnt that when he was still in Buenos Aires, he had some of the ashes of a missionary priest, who was cremated after death, in order to remember and share this period of suffering and mission.
Pope Francis was elected on 13 March. A few hours later, Xi Jinping was elected president of China. Both face similar problems. Xi Jinping has to tackle corruption. The pope, when he was bishop of Buenos Aires, wrote a book titled in Spanish, Corrupción y pecado, (Corruption and sin) that was recently translated in Italian as Guarire dalla corruzione (Recovering from corruption), in which he says that to eliminate corruption, we must start by changing our hearts. For this reason, it is important to help everyone "recover" from corruption. By contrast, if we "fight" corruption, evil is blamed only on others.
Even Mgr Jin's pastoral letter spoke of politics as a high form of love; for this reason, it requires constant purification.
I can say that, from what he did, Mgr Jin is someone I will never forget. Over time, our friendship blossomed. I prayed for him, for his health, and we wrote to each other on his 96th birthday.
The last time we saw each other was in 2010, when he invited me to an international forum on Matteo Ricci. He also invited me the following year to celebrate the beginning of the cause of beatification of Xu Guangqi, a high official in Shanghai who befriended Matteo Ricci.
Mgr Jin wrote a letter about Xu Guangqi too, showing that his Christian faith had made him a true servant of the public good, unspoiled by corruption. Unfortunately, the following year, 2011, the diocese was forced to postpone the process of beatification.
* Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples