A statement by the Vatican Press Office Director speaks of sharing the "pain" of Chinese Catholics over the participation of an illegitimate bishop in the Chengdu and Xichang episcopal ordinations. Bishops not obliged to not attending the Assembly, which is "incompatible with Catholic doctrine." The Vatican expects "positive signals" from the government.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Holy See "understands and shares" the pain of Chinese Catholics over the Chengdu and Xichang episcopal ordinations in the presence of an illegitimate bishop(imposed by the police). At the same time, while reaffirming the "known" position of the Holy See regarding the Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives ( "incompatible with Catholic doctrine", as stated in the Letter of Benedict XVI, confirmed by Pope Francis), the Vatican "will make its judgement on the basis of established facts ".
This is the summary of a statement issued by the Vatican Press Office Director today on “whether the recent episcopal ordinations in Chengdu and Xichang" and "the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives", which - according to AsiaNews sources - will be held December 26 to 30 at the Tian Tai Hotel Beijing.
The Chengdu (November 30) and Xichang (December 2) celebrations while proceeding to the ordination of two bishops approved by the Holy See and the Chinese government, saw the participation of an illegitimate bishop, Msgr. Lei Shiyin of Leshan (Sichuan). Faced with the opposition, criticism and attempts at obstruction of the faithful, police shielded his participation in the celebration.
In this regard, the statement read: "The presence, in the two above-mentioned episcopal ordinations of a bishop, whose canonical position is still being studied by the Apostolic See as a result of his illegitimate ordination, has created discomfort to the parties concerned and distress among Chinese Catholics. The Holy See understands and shares in their pain”.
A softer judgment is reserved for the Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives. Throughout China –both the official and underground community –had long called for the Holy See to pronounce itself on these issues. The Assembly is the "sovereign body" (as stated in its charter) which directs the life of the Catholic Church, where the "democratic" body is led by a majority of Party members and a minority of bishops. In his Letter to Chinese Catholics, (in 2007) Benedict XVI called it "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."
At the last edition in 2010 (see photo), the Holy See had asked the bishops not to participate. In response, the government physically forced many bishops to take part. Pope Francis has confirmed the value of Benedict XVI’s Letter. But this time the pronouncement of the Holy See is more nuanced. On the one hand it says that "The Holy See’s position regarding these two types of events [Ordinations and Assembly], which involve aspects of the doctrine and discipline of the Church, is well known”. On the other hand, "with regard to the Ninth Assembly - it reads - the Holy See looks forward to making its judgement based on established facts."
This is one way in which the Holy See can leave the decision on whether to participate or not to bishops, and at the same time wait to see if the bishops are really free in their decision. But it also a way to see whether the Assembly will discuss issues and ways that violate religious freedom and Catholic doctrine. It would appear that the this year’s theme is only a change in leadership. In addition to freedom of participation, it remains to be seen whether the bishops gathered in Beijing will be free to choose whether they will participate or not in the liturgies with illegitimate and excommunicated bishops. In this case, the "established facts" would be countless.
The statement concludes on a note of hope: The Holy See "is certain that all Catholics in China eagerly await positive signals, that will help them to trust in the dialogue between the civil authorities and the Holy See and to hope for a future of unity and harmony".