12/01/2011, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN

Beijing does not respect our Church, says Card Zen

The Hong Kong prelate voices his bitterness at the excommunicated bishop who took part in an ordination in Yibin. He also expresses his disappointment at the behaviour of newly ordained bishop, who went through with the ceremony out of either fear or confusion. Police deployment shows the government’s fears but also its power over the Church. Taipei bishop laments the fact for mainland China, the Church is worth less than a business.
Taipei (AsiaNews) – The day after the Episcopal ordination in Yibin of Mgr Peter Luo Xuegang (pictured right, with Mgr Chen, ordinary bishop of the diocese), which saw the attendance of excommunicated Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, who came wilfully disregarding Vatican warnings, Card Joseph Zen is clear, “Beijing does not respect the internal rules of our Church. I don’t know why we should be considerate towards them.”

Card Zen is in Taiwan, where he attended a ceremony in which his Salesian confrere, Mgr Savio Hon, secretary of Propaganda Fide, was awarded an honorary degree. Yet, his thoughts continue to focus on China.

Reflecting on Lei Shiyin, the first thing that comes to mind is conceit. Despite his excommunication, and having been asked not to come, the excommunicated bishop said he would come anyway and act as co-ordinant. At the end of the ceremony, he even boasted that he celebrated “as one with all the other bishops.”

The Hong Kong prelate also expressed his disappointment with the newly ordained bishop. “Mgr Luo knew the situation, he knew that the Holy See had warned Lei Shiyin not to take part in the Catholic Eucharist because he was not in full communion with the pope. Since he could keep Lei Shiyin away, the new bishop should have refused the ordination to avoid such a humiliation.”

In other cases, Episcopal candidates did in fact choose to have their ordination delayed to ensure that no excommunicated bishop was present at the ceremony.

For Vatican officials, the situation was quite difficult this time. Lei Shiyin is bishop in the neighbouring diocese, in Yibin. He is also chairs Patriotic Association that supervises the Catholic Church in Sichuan province. Since ordinations are organised by the government, it is almost impossible to oppose them. Complicating matters, Mgr Luo and Lei Shiyin are graduates of the same seminary, and from Leshan diocese.

For some priests, Mgr Luo Xuegang allowed himself to be manipulated out of fear and friendship. However, “It is ridiculous to speak of friendship in view of such a serious offence,” Card Zen said. “Should I leave the Church out of friendship to share my friend’s excommunication.”

Other factors point to a certain fragility and incoherence in Mgr Luo. A few days ago, he took part in conference, perhaps under duress, in which China’s “independent” and “autonomous Church ere praised. Both themes are very much in line with the Communist party. “How can you be in communion with the pope and the universal Church whilst adhering to ideological slogans like the autonomy and independence of the Church,” the prelate wondered.

Whether fearing criticism or unrest, the authorities deployed hundreds of police officers at the ceremony. They prevented participants from taking pictures or shooting videos. People invited to the service were forced to arrive three hours ahead of schedule and undergone a security scan.

“Police deployment shows they (the authorities) are afraid of something, that they are doing something contrary to people’s faith and human rights,” Card Zen said. Yet, “We saw the triumph of state control over believers’ religious freedom,” he bitterly added.

The archbishop of Taipei also came out against Beijing’s ordinations policy, briefly noting that “companies that open offices in China have the right to appoint people of their choosing to run their business. By contrast, Beijing wants to choose the bishops of the Catholic Church [. . .]. In other words, the Church has fewer rights than an ordinary store.” (B.C.)
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