12/29/2016, 14.13
CHINA - VATICAN
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Official and underground priests unsatisfied with Assembly and participating bishops

by Wang Zhicheng

The emphasis on "independence" and "autonomy" does not bode well for dialogue between China and the Vatican. The Religious Affairs Bureau asks the Holy See for "flexibility and pragmatism." The Assembly is like a theater in which all the scripts are already written. The participating bishops confuse the red of their skullcaps - the blood of the martyrs - with the red of the regime's ideology.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Skepticism towards the true "bosses" of the Assembly; bitterness at the lack of positive signs towards the Vatican; pain for participating bishops, who have "sold out" to the Chinese Communist Party. These are the immediate reactions of some Chinese priests from both the official and underground community in China, shared with AsiaNews, to the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives being held in Beijing from December 26 and concluding this afternoon.

The Assembly is "incompatible with Catholic doctrine," according to Pope Benedict XVI and according to Pope Francis. The Vatican had asked bishops not to take part in the last Assembly. This time, while reaffirming in a "note" the irreconcilable position, it did not pose any ban on participation reserving the right to judge the Assembly on the basis of "concrete facts" and waiting for "positive signals" from the government to help build “trust in dialogue between the civil authorities and the Holy See ".

In speeches to the Assembly, those of bishops were filled with slogans of "independence", "autonomy", "self-management", in line with the rhetoric of the Party and the Patriotic Association that wants to build a Church "independent" of the Holy See.

The culmination of such statements was the speech given by Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). Yesterday, speaking to the Assembly, he reiterated the need for the Vatican to be "flexible and pragmatic", accepting the current situation in which SARA and the PA decide the appointment of bishops and the general policy of the Church under their control.

Fr. Joseph, a priest of central China, after noticing that in the election of the new leadership of the Assembly, there has been "no significant change" and that the principles of "independence" and "autonomy" continue to be defended and proclaimed, adds: "it 'clear that the hoped-for positive signal from the Vatican has not appeared and that what SARA’s  Wang Zuoan said, his hope that the Vatican prove' flexible and pragmatic', is the response to the declaration of the Holy See made before the Ninth Assembly".

Another comment from Fr. Peter, North China, sees the Assembly as a theater where everyone plays a part.  He questions "who is" the true weaver and puppeteer. It must be said that in fact, the Ninth Assembly was held on the back of the insistent wishes of SARA the United Front and the PA which have been preparing  the meeting for months, visiting bishops and other representatives, preparing the candidates for the elections.

 

"At the beginning - said Fr. Peter - I did not have much to say on the Ninth Assembly: outside and inside the everything seemed to be a staged theatrical representation, and those on stage or off it are the actors. Everything was very well planned: the assignment of roles, their scripts, the well-chosen audience, who raised their hands to vote and approve content, the media coverage ... Everything was like a perfectly executed show staged by an "office manager." But people wonder: Is this 'office manager' not that entity which is called the 'Catholic Church in China'? For my part I say: They may have spent the money from this entity, but the driver and those making the decisions are not from the Church in China".

A priest of the underground Church is critical of the bishops who participated in the Assembly, given the "note" "irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine". "I wonder - he says - if their consciences do not feel remorse. In the first three days after Christmas, the Church's liturgy celebrates martyrs and witnesses [St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, the innocent martyrs]. In Beijing, did they celebrate  mass and meditate on the readings of the liturgy? The color of a bishop’s skull cap is red, and symbolizes their readiness to shed blood for their flock. Do they think the red of their skull is the same red of the Chinese regime and has the same meaning? ". 

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