Vatican City, (AsiaNews) - Despite 50 years of persecution, the Church in China remains faithful and devoted. Today's proceedings began in fact with the witness of a Chinese bishop, who could not attend the synod assembly. At the start of the meeting, Mgr Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the synod, read a message from Mgr Lucas Li Jingfeng, the 90-year-old bishop of Fengxiang, who was released in 1979 after 20 years in prison.
"I congratulate you who can participate in the Synod and pay homage to Saint Peter's Tomb," the bishop writes, but "I am very saddened that you cannot hear any voice from the Chinese Church. I want to say that our Church in China, in particular the laity, has always maintained the piety, faithfulness, sincerity and devotion of the first Christians, even whilst undergoing fifty years of persecution. I wish to add that I pray intensely and constantly Almighty God that our piety, faithfulness, sincerity and devotion may overcome the tepidness, unfaithfulness and secularism that have developed abroad as a result of unrestrained openness and freedom."
"In the Year of Faith, in your synod discussions, you can examine why our faith in China was able to remain indefectible until now. As the great Chinese philosopher Lǎozi put it, 'As calamity generates prosperity, so in weakness calamity hides.' In the Churches outside of China, tepidness, unfaithfulness and secularism of the faithful have infected clergymen. In the Chinese Church, lay people are more pious than the clergy. And I believe that our faith as Chinese Christians can console the pope. I shall not talk about politics because it is transient."
Relations with Islam, aggressive sects and "charity" towards remarried divorced couples were also discussed. For Ghanaian Bishop Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, the "anti-Church attitudes of certain international financial institutions" is one of the challenges the Church has to face in his country.
"Whilst the nature of faith among Ghanaian Catholics is a challenge within the Church, some external factors are also a test to its life, like the constant growth of sects, the rise of militant Islam and the anti-Church attitude of international financial organisations and so-called partners in development."
"The presence and activities of sects, with their Gospel of prosperity and promises of success and immediate wealth, are very attractive to young people. As a result of this attraction, the Church is losing many members. However, this trend also suggests that youth need something more than wealth and success."
As for Islam, "so far in Ghana, it has not been openly hostile to the Catholic and other Churches. In fact, there are good relations between the two sides and cooperation on the main sociopolitical issues. However, we may wonder whether some negative under current lies behind good relations. We should not take the current situation for granted."
Finally, "the anti-Church attitudes of some international financial organisations is negatively influencing the Church in Ghana, especially in the educational field. Indeed, the Conference of Catholic Bishops had to take a strong stance to have religious and moral education reintroduced in primary schools. At present, Christian religion and morality are taught alongside those of other faiths."
Mgr Mario Grech, bishop of Gozo (Malta), addressed the issue of the "painful reality of marriages that end badly. Even though many divorcés are not in perfect communion with the Church because of their irregular status, they love and believe in the Lord and the Church."
"I think these couples are waiting for an 'imperial message' from this synod, an enlightening word like the one the pope pronounced in Milan," the prelate said.
"The problem of remarried divorcés is one of the great sufferings of the Church today," he added, but the Church still "loves them." They "are not outside. Even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist, they must realise that they can still live fully within the Church."
Yesterday afternoon, sainthood was at the centre of the reflection. Saints, it was observed, are convincing because they are coherent in life and faith. And coherence is key to the new evangelisation.
Each culture can be evangelised because everybody can understand charity, as practiced by the saints, especially in our age when a certain mindset has but scorn for religion, seeing it as an obstacle to development, pushing man towards atheism disguised as indifference and fuelled by internal divisions in the Church, which gives a bad example.