04/24/2007, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN
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Card Zen prays for Fu Tieshan, but calls on China to commit itself more to relations with Vatican

by Kevin Wang
Hong Kong bishop fears a propagandistic use of the patriotic bishop’s funeral. Patriotic Association and the Religious Affairs Bureau are pushing for new episcopal ordinations “independent” of the Vatican
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Cardinal Joseph Zen said that “it is unlikely” that he will go to the funeral of Fu Tieshan, the late patriotic bishop of Beijing and expressed the hope that China commit itself more  to “sincere” dialogue with the Vatican.
 
Responding to media questions, the Bishop of Hong Kong said that he did not receive any invitation to take part in the funeral to be held in China’s capital, even though “we will pray for the deceased.” He also added, “It is not always necessary to take part in ceremonies, given the distance still separating the two sides,” China and the Vatican.
 
The Bishop of Hong Kong, a tenacious defender of religious freedom in China, then said that a trip on his part to Beijing to attend the funeral would do not bring any significant progress in China-Holy See dialogue. Instead, he specified, “basic work” needs to begin. He expressed the hope that the patriotic bishop’s death be an occasion to “sit down together to speak with sincerity” and not an occasion for propaganda.
 
Fu Tieshan, patriotic Archbishop of Beijing, who died last April 20, was chairman of the Patriotic Association (AP), the organism that controls the official Church, which aims at establishing a Church independent of Rome.
 
Instead, layman Anthony Liu-Bainian, Vice-President of the AP and organizer of the recent illicit episcopal ordinations (unapproved by the Holy See), invited leaders of the Universal Church to go to Fu Tieshan’s funeral. He also stated that he wishes to “continue the legacy” of the patriotic bishop. According to some Catholics in Beijing, Liu has in mind to continue the series of ordinations without Holy See approval.
 
It seems that Ye Xiaowan, Director of the State Bureau for Religious Affairs, is also pushing in the same direction. In a comment on Fu Tieshan’s death (People’s Daily, April 23), he said that the deceased prelate was pushing “to open the field to a new generation…of priests and bishops.” According to Ye, Fu had always asked him to receive as much government and Communist Party support as possible for the growth in young clergy membership, to guarantee episcopal successions.
 
Meanwhile, funeral services continue to be held for Fu.  A chapel of rest has been set up, at the People's National Assembly.’s expense, with a wealth of flowers and decorations, in the bishopric, located in the building of the Nantang (Cathedral of the Immaculate). A state funeral service for the patriotic bishop, “a great friend of the Chinese Communist Party,” will be celebrated in the Babaoshan cemetery, where funerals for politicians and Party leaders are held. The body will be wrapped in the Chinese flag. Only later, with no flag, will the funeral mass and cremation take place.
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