Beijing (AsiaNews) - A priest from China’s underground community, under the name "Peace", wrote today to AsiaNews with some insights on the illicit ordination of Fr. Guo Jincai to Bishop of Chengde, taking his cue from the statement issued by the Holy See Press Office, published yesterday (see Holy See condemns illicit episcopal ordination in Chengde). Here is the text of the article:
The Church in China has once again caught the attention of the world. On November 20, 2010, the vice secretary-general of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was ordained the bishop of Chengde without papal mandate and as a “self-elected and self-ordained” bishop. Four days after the ordination, the Holy See issued a communique to express its condemnations over such act. This illicit ordination involved many complicated elements and has various implications, including the situation of the development of Sino-Vatican relations in recent years, the self-positioning of the Church in China, the position of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. All these cannot be explained clearly with just a few paragraphs. Having read the Holy See Press Office communiqué of Nov. 20, may I share some of my impressions:
1. On the whole, the wording of this Vatican communiqué was much stronger than the one issued by Dr Navarro-Valls in 2006, after Ma Yinglin and Liu Xinhong were ordained as “self-elected and self-ordaining” bishops in China.
2. The event itself has an impact on the communion of the Church, the Nov. 20 communiqué says, it “constitutes a painful wound upon ecclesial communion”. In our view, the words “a painful wound” is not strong enough. Since the communiqué targets at this particular ordination, as a warning statement was already issued by Father Federico Lombardi beforehand. Moreover, Points 3 and 4 of the communiqué must have stressed on the gravity of this painful wound. According to Point 3 of the communique, Father Joseph Guo Jincai is now in the situation of “automatic excommunication”, as cited in canon 1382 of the Canon Law. The matter does not only concern Church communion, because the Latin word “excommunicatio” (in Latin) does not only mean the painful wound in the Church communion, but also beyond the communion. Certainly, before any final announcement of the penalty arisen from this ordination, we dare not say now that he has already been out of the Church communion. However, we can at least use words like “a severely painful wound” could be used to describe the depth and seriousness of the event. Point 4 of the communiqué expresses worries over the situation of the laypeople in Chengde area and articulates the concern of the universal Church toward this suffering Church. The Church communion will not be affected even though someone violated certain acts, and so the majority of the Catholics remain intact.
3. About the eight participating bishops, they are all in communion with Rome. As the Nov. 20 communiqué says, they were under pressures and their freedoms were restricted. However, was this pressure so great that, for them, there was no point of resisting? “We hear that someone was well able to refuse to participate,” Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong asked. Such pressures, inevitably, came from the Chinese government. But looking at the event more closely, would it be due to “a misguided compassion,” as Cardinal Zen said, that brought along the concessions and cause this pressure irresistible.
4. On Guo Jincai himself, who received the episcopal ordination, Rome has made a serious warning before his ordination. From the development of the Sino-Vatican relations, we have a reason to expect that those excommunications will not be just like “vanity light heartedly,” as Cardinal Zen said. If we just look from diplomatic side of the Sino-Vatican relations, definitely there will not be any way out. The nature of our Church is rooted in faith. One of the missions of the Church is “to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). When the Church and a country have to establish diplomatic relations, she must first of all consider faith and not diplomatic relations. Certainly, we are not judging anyone here. But, we must testify the mission in truth must not wound the charity done by the Church.
5. On the Chinese government, Points 5 and 6 of the communiqué note that such acts have obstructed the dialogue between China and the Vatican. However, we think that, if the dialogue is based on faith, then, such dialogue is possible. The content of dialogue has to be about conscience and religious freedom. This is the basic human right. Therefore, we can reiterate what Dr Navarro-Valls said in 2006 about the worries over the situation of China’s religious freedom.
6. On further development of this illicit episcopal ordination, and the consequences arisen from this case, we still have to wait and see in order to know the matter more objectively on what is to come. On the one hand, there is the upcoming Eighth National Assembly of the Catholic Representatives. And, on the other hand, one must watch closely the follow-up actions by the Holy See on this case, and at the same time, if there is a change of attitude by the Chinese government toward the Catholics in China.