The considerations of the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong on claims made by recent articles regarding the agreement between Beijing and the Holy See.
Hon Kong (AsiaNews) - Finally the good Fr. Jeroom Heyndrickx, the “God Father” of “China experts,” has come out with his “2018 the year of truth” [referring to the “imminent” (?) China-Vatican Agreement.]
I could ignore the “Breaking the trust” by (now) famous Francesco Sisci. I could resist the temptation of answering Fr. Michael Kelly’s (an expert in Church History?) “Cardinal Zen is just wrong.” But how can I ignore Fr. Heyndrickx or abstain from reacting to his pathetic sermon?
Actually, I think it would have been convenient to answer both Sisci and Kelly, at least briefly, because I would have answered, at the same time, some main points of Fr. Heyndrickx’s article.
I know Sisci. We met a couple of times many years ago. His strong point in life is that he conquered the heart of a girl, who happens to be the daughter of a Chinese General. This allowed him to come and go in the corridors of power in Beijing. But that does not make him a real expert in Chinese matters, even less an expert in Church affairs.
As to the central point of his article, co-authored with a certain Strazzari, I have this to say: I plead guilty of breach of confidentiality, but I did it to discharge the Holy Father from responsibility for those evil (wrong?) things perpetrated by his collaborators in his name (they plan to do their dirty job quietly and let us swallow the fait accompli).
Yes, I am convinced that the Holy See is not always the Holy Father. Until I see an evil deal signed, I refuse to believe that it can be real.
This brings me to my first answer to Fr. Heyndrickx. He is calling everybody to “unite behind the Pope, if …” He has repeated that there is an “if.” He confesses that “we do not know whether the Pope will…” He is only making a prophecy. So I can still challenge him. Only if that unfortunate signing happens, rumored to be on March 23 or 27, I will accept defeat, retire in silence and leave the rostrum to Fr. Heyndrickx to sing his victory.
Fr. Kelly went back to the times when Christian monarchs had the decisive power in making bishops. But that is, fortunately,…HISTORY.
He mentioned also the Vatican compromise with the Nazi, the Fascist and the Eastern Bloc Communist powers. But nobody should, today, feel proud of that (only the strong faith of the people could prevent the Church from a complete collapse!)
[Last summer I spent three weeks making a study tour to the Church of Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic.]
Now, the present HISTORICAL reality we face in China is: a “pusillus grex” (a tiny flock) being persecuted by a gigantic atheist power. What is happening in China from 1949 until today has no precedent in HISTORY.
It was, until recently, “either surrender or martyrdom” (without me pushing for martyrdom), and now it is “either surrender (with the encouragement from the Vatican) or back to the catacombs.”
But why surrender? Doesn’t the Vatican see that many churches (buildings) survive in the underground community e.g. in Hebei and Fujian? Doesn’t the Vatican know that in cities like Shanghai, many priests celebrate Sunday Mass in private homes for their faithful? There is still a certain degree of freedom for the “birds outside the cage.” But now things are going to change. The Vatican is coming to help the Government to push everybody into the cage. This is absolutely novel! This makes HISTORY!
This brings me to my second answer to Fr. Heyndrickx. He says that the signing of the Agreement would be a blessing because it will enable the Catholic faithful in China “to openly celebrate their faith in one community.” “The year 2018 will be the year of truth.”
What truth? Truth with Chinese characteristics? (I would like Fr. Heyndrickx to read the pastoral letter by the late Bishop Aloysius Jin on Truth. The truth doesn’t enjoy good health or high esteem nowadays in China. Everything is faked, from food to medicine. You are not expected to tell the truth, just say what the boss likes to hear.)
“To openly celebrate their faith in one community”? How wonderful! But where? In a church registered with the Patriotic Association, under the surveillance cameras, listening to a priest preaching the latest instruction from the reigning President-Emperor?! What other possibility? Surely this is not a really normal worship as in any Catholic church in the world!
Fr. Heyndrickx has learned a lot from the Chinese, who are masters in playing with words. Beautiful words: “To openly celebrate their faith in one community,” and “restoring church unity and normalization in China.” How wonderful, how “unusual,” how tragic lies! The Reality is: People who for years, bearing all sorts of discrimination and harassment, kept their loyalty to the true faith, under the authority of the Pope, are now forced by the Vatican into the same “prison” where, led by the Government officials, dressed like God’s ministers. They have to shout in unison: long live China, long live “中國天主教” (in that order) [you may not notice the contradiction as when you say “Chinese Catholic Church” (zhongguo tianzhujiao) - An independent Chinese Church is no more a Catholic Church!]
Fr. Heyndrickx attributes the merit of this “miracle” to the “courageous initiative of Pope Francis [obviously Pope Benedict (the confrontationist?) is not “his” Pope]. Fr. Heyndrickx is too humble. He is the one who deserves the price for this “big success.” He is now harvesting what he has sown for the last ten years, with the complicity of the Holy See, as soon as the Pope’s 2007 letter was published.
He picked up, out of the context, the words “the clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church’s life.” The complete text in the letter is in Paragraph 10 of Chapter 8: “Some of them (bishops in China), not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for clandestine consecration. The clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from state agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church’s life.”
Being a friend both of the Holy See and of the Patriotic Association he could spread his twisted interpretation of the Pope’s letter all over the Church in China. “Let everybody come into the open, there should not be underground church anymore!”
His latest conquest: the Bishop of Lanzhou has been publicly installed last November. Another one, Bishop Wei Jingyi, is on the waiting list.
A clarification on distinction between Reconciliation and Unification succeeded in fighting its way into the “compendium,” but only after 2 years when irreparable confusion and damage has already been caused in the Church.
I am not going to point out all the absurdities in the article of Fr. Heyndrickx. I only want to remind him that his emphasis on “the Vatican knows best” goes against Pope Francis’ emphasis on the periphery. Remember also: you go often to China, but every day in Hong Kong, the reality of China comes before our eyes. You are welcome to Hong Kong to watch how they are going to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first illegal episcopal ordination in China next month.