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  • » 11/25/2009, 00.00


    Card. Zen publishes a guide to Pope's letter to Chinese Catholics

    The Patriotic Association is the most obvious cause of the painful situation of the Church in China. The underground bishops must take "caution" in seeking recognition from the government. Official bishops should not advertise the ideal of an independent church and show more unity with the pope.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Card. Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has published a guide for Chinese Catholics to explain the letter Benedict XVI wrote to Chinese Catholics in 2007. The small booklet of 22 pages (in Chinese, in Italian of 28), published on the diocese website, analytically focuses on burning questions such as the way in which underground and official bishops should act with regards the Patriotic Association, the Party body that controls the life of the Church in order to create a national church, separated from universal communion and the Pope. The cardinal also devotes several paragraphs to a call for a reconciliation of hearts between the official and underground communities.

    Card. Zen sees the influence of the PA (along with the National Assembly of Chinese Catholics representatives, who consider themselves above their own bishops), is "the most obvious cause of the painful situation of the Church in China". The pope himself, in note 7 of his letter, places these organisms among the main causes of "conflicts", "divisions", "suspicions" "complaints" that generate a "worrisome weaknesses" in the ecclesial community.

    The cardinal also tackles some of the much debated issues within Christian communities in the aftermath of the papal letter:

    1)      First; If an underground bishop must be recognized by the government, as required by the Ministry for Religious Affairs. Together with the Pope, Cardinal. Zen states, in union with the pope this is possible, "provided that it [the recognition] does not entail the denial of essential principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion." The cardinal - correcting some interpretations currently in vogue - explains that this should not be done at all costs, but with "great caution", "on consulting his [the bishop] presbytery”, but without violating "inalienable principles ". This explanation seems to fit the situation that emerged in recent weeks in the diocese of Baoding, where the coadjutor bishop Francis An Shuxin emerged from hiding, celebrated with an illegitimate bishop, and adhered to the PA. The event has generated great division and pain among the faithful and priests of the diocese (See AsiaNews.it, 29/10/2009 In Hebei, underground bishop joins Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association).

    2)      If the experience of the underground community is now outdated. Card. Zen explains: "Taking into consideration the phrase "the clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church's life"(Letter of Pope, n. 8), some argue that after the Pope's letter there is no longer any reason for the faithful to remain in hiding. This is a clear example of an out of context interpretation. The clandestine condition is certainly abnormal, but it is forced by an abnormal situation, and until the situation remains abnormal there are reasons to remain in hiding. To do otherwise would be to “accept interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the life of the Church”.  Misinterpretation would incite the clandestine community to surrender the undue interference of the regime, while the letter of the Holy Father encourages official communities to free themselves of it".

    3)      Official bishops recognized by the Holy See must increasingly give "unequivocal signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter" (Letter of Pope, 8). Card. Zen says that the situation of the official bishops is ambiguous because although they are recognized by the Vatican, they are also members of the PA. They are in a situation of "compromise, because the structure in which they are involved is an (objectively) unacceptable structure, but in their hearts they (subjectively) do not intend to accept it and tolerate it temporarily in the hope and effort to change it as soon as possible”. Precisely because of this, however, the cardinal notes that these bishops must be “consistent" and must not allow themselves to be exploited to publicise the ideals of the PA: "How can someone consider himself in communion with the Apostolic See if shouts his support for an independent Church at every available opportunity?”.  Some months ago card. Zen criticized some official bishops, including the bishop of Beijing, who took part in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the election of independent bishops (cf. AsiaNews.it, 3/1/2009 Cardinal Zen asks Chinese bishops for more courage) .


    Link to full text of guide written by Card. Zen:


    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    14/07/2009 CHINA - VATICAN
    Cardinal Zen: The Church in China two years after the Pope's Letter
    Misinterpretations of the Letter have led to confusion and distress in the underground community. The official bishops must have more courage in their faithfulness to the pope, refusing structures that are contrary to the Catholic faith. The Chinese government continues its usual policy: total control of the Church.

    23/05/2009 VATICAN - CHINA
    Pope approves Compendium of his Letter to the Catholics of China
    The publication two years on from the Letter on the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The Letter is furthering unity between the official and underground Church, but the Patriotic Association pounces on their divisions with controls and arrests.

    08/09/2010 VATICAN - CHINA
    Cardinal Zen: Catholic Church in China, dialogue or confrontation with the government
    Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong comes out against the temptation towards total subservience to the religious policy of the Chinese government, marginalizing the experience of the suffering and underground Church. Risks of the papal letter to Chinese Catholics being manipulated.

    07/12/2010 CHINA – VATICAN
    Chinese bishops deported to attend Patriotic Assembly
    The gathering, incompatible with the faith of Catholics, aims to elect the Presidents of the Patriotic Association and the Council of Bishops. Some bishops have gone into hiding to avoid having to participate, while others have been taken against their will. The bishop of Hengshui, seized and torn from the safe cover of the faithful, dragged to Beijing.

    07/09/2007 VATICAN - CHINA
    Guiyang, first Episcopal ordination after Pope’s Letter
    The Holy See approves. Perhaps for the first time ever bishops and faithful from underground and official Church will celebrate together.

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