08/09/2016, 13.24
CHINA – VATICAN
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"The Church in China can grow even without diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See" (2)

by AA.VV.

Card Tong’s words show the Vatican's attention for the Chinese Church. Those of Card Zen’s express pessimism towards diplomatic relations. The debate continues in the Church in China in the two articles published days ago. The success in Holy See-Vietnam relations is due to the large number of Catholics in that country. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the government put obstacles to episcopal ordinations. Second part of a series of three.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Here we have the second set of comments (out of three) following the publication of an article by Card John Tong Hon, and one by Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. The first one is optimistic about diplomatic relations between Rome and Beijing, the second one is pessimistic. The first says that the Secretariat of State is deeply attentive to the underground Church and Catholic principles; the second expresses doubts about what he calls a "new edition of Ostpolitik". Broadly, the same positions and polarisations exist among Chinese Catholics, a sign of the need for more internal dialogue. A curious thing must be mentioned, namely almost a week after the publication of these articles, the Chinese government is still silent. In recent months however, the prospects of control over all religions (even Catholicism) have increased, supporting their greater  "sinicisation", "independence from abroad", and support for the development of the motherland. What is more, the activities of religions have come under the control of public security. (BC)

Joseph from Shanghai 

China cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951. The last thing the Chinese government wants to see is Chinese Catholics who are loyal to the pope, a world-class spiritual leader. China initially wanted to follow the example of the Anglican tradition, that Chinese citizens should be loyal to the state rather than to the religious leaders of the country. This was the main reason there was no contact between the Vatican and China for so many years.

In addition, both the Vatican and China think individually about what is best for their own Church. The Vatican does not want to let China hinder their efforts in the global promotion of the Catholic faith. From China's point of view, whether it is the appointment of religious leaders or the appointment of a national company president, the power of appointment should be in the hands of the Chinese government, and this principle should not be destroyed by Vatican.

Looking back at the changes in Eastern Europe, although it happened twenty years ago, overthrowing communism in Eastern Europe was a psychological obstacle to China in establishing a diplomatic relationship. It was a threat.

It is said that the Vatican and Vietnam relations were normalized, mainly because the two sides have built formal official communication channels, and each year they have communicated with each other directly. In Vietnam, a big portion of the population is Catholic. However, in China, less than one percent of China's population is Catholic, so when the Vatican tries to establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese government, the Vatican stands in a relatively weak position and has little influence. Furthermore, the behaviour of Thaddeus Ma Daqin (who quit the Patriotic Association) has left a traumatic scar on the government until now.

In the past, the right to appoint bishops has been a problem, but now it is not the case. Underground Catholics have criticized the Chinese government severely, so what is Vatican's stance in dealing with the Chinese faithful and the Chinese Church?

Card Tong’s article shows the Vatican's attitude towards Chinese Church. In Cardinal Chen's article, his words represent the pessimistic views of many Chinese Catholics about Sino-Vatican relations.

If the bishops of the underground Catholic Church can be integrated into the Chinese Bishops’ Conference, then the Patriotic Association would seem unnecessary. Therefore, the Patriotic Association has been trying very hard to get the government to be tough on the underground Church and the Vatican. Otherwise, the people from the Patriotic Association would lose their jobs.

From the perspective of the Vatican, the communication channel from the Holy See to the underground Church is not so smooth. Sometimes the bishops' style does not match the Vatican’s expectations, but the Holy See cannot do anything about it. If the Vatican established diplomatic relations with China, it could gain more control of the underground Church. China also has the same problem, which is the lack of management for the underground Church. It seems that the Vatican and China find common ground on this issue.

The rumor that Sino-China diplomatic relations were established has been widely spread everywhere since 1999. Various media reports claim that it would happen soon, but it all ended in nothing. I won't believe it until I see the agreement or contract being signed on paper and with a pen.

Father Tang (Southern China)

Cardinal Tong's article was rational and positive. In fact, what the Chinese Church needs most is to live out the spirit of the Gospel. Although the early Church experienced tremendous persecution, it still developed rapidly. Compared to the early Church, it is not that big of a deal for the Chinese Church to encounter current persecution. Therefore, the development of the Chinese Church is not directly related to building diplomatic relations with the Vatican. With the spirit of the Gospel, the Church will develop even without diplomatic relations. Without the spirit of the Gospel, the Church will not develop even if there are diplomatic relations.

For the first part, click here.

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