The daily life of a priest of North China, from the official Church, in a society dominated by atheism and superstitions. State pressures to break bonds with the Pope. Safeguarding the Catholic faith in negotiations between China and the Vatican. A testimony from the AsiaNews Symposium.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - I have been in priestly ministry for the past 27 years, encountering joys and sorrows. My so-called suffering, to tell the truth, cannot really be considered as such, because it is not comparable to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. My external sufferings were arrest, forced domicile detention, being kept under custody, being subjected to indoctrination. My inner sufferings are derived from the inner situation of the Church, that is, the grave moral scandals of superiors and the vicissitudes of my brothers.
Since its inception, the Christian religion has been filled with tribulations and difficulties, to which we have become accustomed to ordinary things and which should not surprise us. At present, the general atmosphere of Chinese society maintains atheism as the guiding principal of it ideology, while the ordinary people I have encountered in my evangelization are dominated by polytheism and feudal superstitions. For this reason, those engaged in this ministry not only have to understand a little bit about atheist thought but also be familiar with the roots of popular religion and polytheistic worship. Only in this way, in hi apostolic ministry, can he realistically care for different types of people.
In the 1990's, I generally exercised my pastoral ministry in rural areas, so I had to deal with ordinary and poor people. Since our life of faith had been controlled and oppressed for so long, there was a strong desire for faith in our minds. Although the external conditions were very negative, in our efforts to spread the Gospel, we found that many desired to enter the Catholic Church. That is, although society, economic and political conditions left much to be desired, as evangelizers we saw that many wanted to receive baptism and enter the Church: this gave us so much inner joy. When the new converts kneeled in front of the altar saying 'I believe', the priest's heart was overjoyed, for he found that his efforts to spread the Gospel were not empty but yielded good and rewarding results.
When history entered the 21st century, my priestly life changed radically: not only did I have to strive to rebuild the Christian community, but also face many political factors. Relations between the Catholic community and the state are not based on clear principles, and so, although as a priest I should have no interest in secular power, as a Chinese priest, I was required to establish continuous contacts with the official authorities.
With regards faith, in particular, as a priest faithful to the Catholic faith, I had the duty to safeguard the primacy of the Holy See of Rome, but the secular authorities regarded the Holy See as a foreign secular institution, requesting Catholic priests obey their duty as citizens, and change their faith: this was the real challenge. The Catholic faith belongs to the spiritual sphere of life, while secular political authorities are concerned about the material sphere of this world. At first they should not be in contradiction, but in the practical terms of everyday life they have infinite difficulties and contradictions: this is the most serious suffering that erodes the conscience of every Chinese priest.
Anyone who understands the difficulties experienced by the Church in China will understand why her bishops, even underground bishops, hope that China and the Vatican will soon reach an agreement and even diplomatic recognition. But anyone who considers the possibility that China and the Vatican will soon reach an agreement, and even diplomatic recognition as fortunate, is both naïve and infantile, because China's imperial culture has always demanded that religion be 'Sinicized'. This is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. If you cannot guarantee the original and authentic nature of the Catholic faith any agreement based on concession or compromise between China and the Vatican will remain a castle in the clouds: nothing more than words.