(AsiaNews) - A Hong Kong Communist Daily started spreading the news
that the Sino-Vatican Agreement is close at hand. Then the voice of the
Secretary of State of the Pope adds weight to the news: "Yes, the prospects are
promising. Both sides are willing to talk".
Among my friends, who since a long time are concerned with what happens
to the Church in China, there is a sense of disbelief. We find it difficult to
go along with this optimism. We do not see any sign that would encourage the
hope that the Chinese Communists are about to change their religious policy.
Now we see two interviews published: Two bishops in China interviewed by
Gianni Valente, a reporter working for Fides, the News Agency of the
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
While reading the texts, there is a bitter taste in my mouth. G. V.
seems to be sending us this message: "Two bishops in China, in communion with
the Pope and who have paid for this their loyalty, are fully in support of a
Sino-Vatican rapprochement. You people who refuse to share this enthusiasm had
better shut up".
Before my comments on some of the contents in the interviews, I would
like to make two preliminary remarks.
1. Those who ever go to interview Church people in China must be aware
that they are not free and cannot speak freely, otherwise something may
happen as it happened to Msgr. Thaddeus Ma of Shanghai. To suppose that they
are free is simply naïve. To interview them, knowing that they are not free, is
cruel and also unfair to the readers who might be misled.
2. To my disappointment, I noticed that G.V., a respectable reporter,
used "leading questions" in these two interviews, putting words into the mouth
of the persons he interviewed.
For example, talking to Msgr. Wei about the division between Catholics
in the so-called official and underground communities, he adds: "which
(division) has often been enhanced by personal ambitions and power struggles";
when talking later about the negotiations between the Vatican and Communist
China, he says: "for someone, if the Holy See deals with the Chinese
Government, she risks appearing ready for compromise or even ready to sell
herself out"; similarly, in the interview with Msgr. Han, talking about the
dialogue between the Holy See and Beijing, he adds: "will there not be the
possibility that people will consider any aperture, any attempt to reach an
agreement, a wrong and suicidal choice"?
A. ANALYSIS OF THE INTERVIEW WITH MSGR. WEI JING YI OF
1. What is the problem between China and the Vatican?
In spite of the misleading introductory words of G. V., Msgr. Wei
answered very well: "There is no need to go back to the history of 2000 years.
The actual problem, the reason for the present division of official and
underground communities is only one. In present day China, the two communities
are the outcome of pressure from outside themselves. The Church was divided as
an answer to the way the Communist Government deals with her. Then, in the
course of time, the division has become crystallized."
2. Since the problem is only one, the so-called historical mistakes of
the two sides have not much to do with it. It is enough that the Government
changes its way of dealing with the Church and the problem would be solved. The
question put by G. V., "Who must make the first step?" is superfluous. Msgr.
Wei says very well: "The Church has already made the first step. See all the
efforts Pope Francis is making to show his will for a dialogue."
3. In those above-mentioned "leading questions", G. V. wants to make
people understand that there are persons who oppose a dialogue between the Holy
See and Beijing and consider every such attempt as a betrayal of the Church.
This is a big misunderstanding and causes other misunderstandings. Nobody can
deny that without dialogue there cannot be any solution of any problem. But for
the dialogue to succeed, good will on both sides is required. On the side of
Rome, it is obvious that such good will exists. But what about Beijing? In an
optimism without foundation to suppose that Beijing has good will is dangerous.
It may be just wishful thinking. Now, if the other party is not ready to make
any compromise and we want to arrive at an agreement at any cost, then the only
thing we have to do is to surrender and to sell ourselves out. So, we are not
afraid of a dialogue, we are not contrary to the dialogue. We are afraid of an
attitude of compromise at any cost, without a bottom line.
4. Our bottom line is what Pope Francis calls "our identity" (Homily in
the Mass concelebrated with Asian Bishops in Korea) and is the Catholic
ecclesiology, as explained in the 2007 Letter of Pope Benedict to the Church in
China. To this Letter Pope Francis recently made explicit reference.
In all these years, the situation of the Church in China has gone
farther and farther away from the mentioned bottom line.
With an independent Church, with ordinations of bishops without papal
mandate, we have a de facto schismatic Church, even if we do not like to call
her such. What makes us hope that the Communist Government is now ready to go
back to our bottom line? To allow that our Catholic Church become really
Catholic again? The Church in China is in a gravely abnormal situation. It is
the Government that runs the Church. For things to turn normal, we need a
5. The problems to be solved are so many!
Certainly, the most serious problem is that of the nomination of
bishops. In these years that I have been a member of the Commission for the
Church in China, and although I am a Chinese Cardinal, I have never received
any information about whether any negotiations were going on and with what
result. So I do not know what kind of Agreement they are about to conclude. I
only want to remind the Holy See that the word "election" has a very peculiar
meaning in China. I want them also to remember that in China the Episcopal
Conference simply does not exist. Only the name exists.
Another crucial problem is the Patriotic Association. The rumours which
now are around already tell us that it will be impossible to eliminate the
Patriotic Association. Then, what kind of hope have we that things may turn
normal? Msgr. Wei thinks that the Patriotic Association may change its nature.
I am afraid that with the name also the reality will continue more or less as
it is. In this kind of game of words, the Holy See is certainly not the equal
of the Chinese Communists.
Besides these two grave problems, there is a multitude of irregular
situations to be regularized: excommunicated bishops, illegitimate bishops,
some with participation in other illegitimate episcopal ordinations, legitimate
bishops with one or more participations in illegitimate ordinations, bishops
ordained legitimately with participation of illegitimate bishops at their
ordination... These are all serious cases of irregularity. If the Holy See does
not put things right, her credibility will be endangered.
Then, in the future final arrangement into one unified structure, how
will be the rights of the two communities be balanced? The supreme rule should
be the good of the faithful, but will the Chinese Communist consent to it?
6. Card. Parolin said recently that we must do things acting from
theological considerations. I suppose this to mean the point of view of truth
and justice. If the Communist side disagrees on this and is not ready to make
any compromise, what can we do to achieve a good Agreement? The temptation to
reach a conclusion at any cost is not imaginary. In these last years, have we
not conceded already too much to the other side?
Recently, too, the same Card. Parolin, in commemorating Card. Casaroli,
used superlative expressions in praise of the famous Ostpolitik promoted by
Casaroli in dealing with Communist East Europe. Card. Parolin even described those
who refused the control of the Government as "systematic opponents" of the
Government, as "gladiators", as "people who like to show themselves on the
political arena". This attitude does little to allay our fears and help our
7. Msgr. Wei said the most important thing at the conclusion of the
interview: "As batteries are essential for the functioning of so many modern
gadgets, so prayer is what keeps the faith alive".
Only with faith shall we be able to accept a complete failure in the
present, and not to sacrifice our convictions and the discipline of the Church
for an immediate success.
No Agreement is better than a bad Agreement.
We cannot pro bono pacis
tolerate an Agreement which betrays our identity.
B. THE INTERVIEW WITH MSGR. HAN ZHI HAI OF LANZHOU
I don't want to spend too many words on the interview of G. V. with
Msgr. Han Zhi Hai of Lanzhou. The prelate has strongly expressed his refusal of
"people who, from the outside, pretend to give commands on what other people
should or should not do regarding their faith".
I think Pope Benedict is surely not one "from the outside". Obviously,
Pope Benedict has, like everybody, the desire to see one day disappear the
division between official and underground. However, until the Government, in
order to realize this union, demands conditions that are against a Catholic
conscience, the unification is not possible. I am happy to see that Msgr. Han
had his priests help him to make a discernment. They convinced him that the
moment of real union has not yet come.
C. THE FATE OF TWO IMPRISONED BISHOPS
At this moment, we receive contrasting news about the fate of Bishop Shi
En Xiang of Yixian, who 14 years ago was violently taken away from his pastoral
ministry and the affection of his relatives. Some people announced his death.
Other people deny such a report. When shall we be given sure information about
this heroic Pastor of 94 years of age. Is he dead? When did he die? Where did
he die? Will his relatives be given back his body or just his ashes? Is G. V.
able to give us some help in this?
Then there is the case of Bishop Su Zhi Min of Baoding. Is he still
alive? Where are they detaining him?
When we see these two venerable Bishops deprived of the most fundamental
right of human dignity, it is difficult for us to imagine that the
representatives of the Holy See can sit down and talk to the Communist
counterpart without chagrin.
Zen and members
of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong in last Saturday's
demonstration to demand news about the fate of Msgr. Cosmas