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  • » 11/04/2009, 00.00


    The choice of Msgr. An Shuxin, "a disaster for the diocese of Baoding"

    Zhen Yuan

    Mgr. An confirms that he has joined the Patriotic Association "for the good of the Church." Underground priests and experts from the China-Vatican dialogue concerned about the situation of tension and confusion in the diocese. But also puzzled by choices of the Vatican.

    Beijing (AsiaNews) - "A disaster for the diocese of Baoding" is how a 40 year old local priest, describes the Church's situation after the decision of Mgr. Francis An Shuxin to join the Patriotic Association (PA). "Now the diocese is divided and it is necessary that the highest authority of the Church speaks loudly and clearly to mend this division."

    Last August, the priests of the diocese of Baoding (Hebei) became aware that their coadjutor bishop, Mgr. An, had become deputy director of the PA and chairman of the Committee on the affairs of the Church of Baoding. The prelate, 60, told his priests that he became part of these two bodies "for the good of the Church."  

    The choice of Msgr. An deviates from the decades-long resistance of the underground Catholics to join the PA, in the name of freedom of religion preached by the Chinese Constitution. It creates some doubt, since the Letter of Benedict XVI to Chinese Catholics (in 2007) defines the PA and its ideal as "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."

    From Hong Kong, Anthony Lam Sui-ki, of the Holy Spirit Study Center of the Diocese of Hong Kong, defines the case of Msgr. An as "very unfortunate". After his release in 2006, the bishop had decided to become a member of the official Church, but in order for him to be recognized as a bishop, the condition was imposed of his taking the leadership of both associations controlled by the government. But with these two positions, says Lam, the bishop was somehow "taken hostage".

    "With the possession of these two titles - continues Lam - the bishop has been emptied of substance. He no longer has the space to help unite the official church and the underground communities of the diocese of Baoding”.

    It is a "misfortune" that Msgr. An has entered the PA "even after the Pope, in his letter to the Chinese of 2007 clearly states its position towards the PA."

    "The move by Msgr. An is neither welcomed by the Church nor the government. In the Church, he opposed the pope's teaching as expressed in the letter, from the standpoint of government, if by chance one day he wanted to retire from the PA, to defend Christian principles, he would only be seen as a 'traitor'” .  

    According to Anthony Lam, at present, the situation of Msgr. An seems worse than the time in which he lived as an underground Bishop. However, he thinks that this case is unique and is related only to the diocese of Baoding, and will not spread to other underground communities.

    Kwun Ping-hung, an expert in relations between China and the Vatican based in Hong Kong, tells AsiaNews that Mgr. An is a very influential bishop in the country and that China and the Vatican wanted him to lead efforts towards reconciliation and unity of the official and underground church in Baoding.

    Rereading An’s moves towards the official church, Kwun says that "without doubt the Vatican has acted too hastily and with too much optimism in understanding the situation of Baoding, while China had taken a very passive position." "Right after pushing him to join the official church  - continues Kwun - the Vatican appointed him coadjutor bishop of Baoding, recognizing the value of Msgr. James Su Zhimin [now in prison] as the ordinary”.

    But the bishop failed to have the government recognize his title of coadjutor bishop, and so China and the Vatican were somehow dragged into the matter".

    "Since then - continues Kwun - Msgr. An has no longer been accepted by the underground Church and is locked in a situation that is neither official nor underground. "

    According Kwun, Msgr. An embraced the PA mainly because of insufficient support from the Vatican. "This could have been the most important factor".

    The adhesion of Bishop An to the PA "will not help - says Kwun - reconciliation between official and underground Catholics in Baoding and Hebei. "From this point of view - he concludes - the case has turned into a situation that neither China nor the Vatican would have liked."


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    See also

    29/10/2009 CHINA – VATICAN
    In Hebei, underground bishop joins Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association
    Mgr Francis An Shuxin spent ten years in police custody. Now he is free but still under surveillance, dragged around to meetings to show the correctness of the government’s religious policy. Three bishops remain in police custody. A priest is arrested whilst two are freed to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The Vatican is accused of ambiguities.

    30/03/2010 VATICAN - CHINA
    Cardinal Zen returns to address the Church of Baoding and the case of Mgr. An Shuxin
    With "truth and charity" the Holy See is mending the unity of the Church of Baoding (Hebei) after the decision of the (coadjutor) bishop Francis An Shuxin to join the official Church, becoming vice president of local Patriotic Association. But certain interpretations put forward in an article in the magazine 30Days, penned by Gianni Valente, force Card. Joseph Zen to make some clarifications.

    08/09/2010 VATICAN - CHINA
    Cardinal Zen: Catholic Church in China, dialogue or confrontation with the government
    Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong comes out against the temptation towards total subservience to the religious policy of the Chinese government, marginalizing the experience of the suffering and underground Church. Risks of the papal letter to Chinese Catholics being manipulated.

    08/04/2010 CHINA – VATICAN
    Bishop placed under house arrest for refusing to co-celebrate Mass with excommunicated bishop
    The bishop was officially installed today, but refused to co-celebrate Mass with Ma Yinglin, who was ordained in 2006 without the permission of the Holy See. Forced to attend the ceremony, the bishop was still able to say publicly that he was taking part in the ceremony against his will.

    01/07/2007 CHINA – VATICAN
    Too much atheism and interference from the state, says Mgr Jia Zhiguo
    The underground bishop of Zhengding, freed eight days ago after 17 in a jail, is both hopeful and pessimistic about what the Pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics might do. The prelate, who has spent more than 20 years in a labour camp, believes that the Chinese government has not changed. “It uses the same strategy as during Mao’s times” and relies on the Patriotic Association to split the Church. But for the Church itself the Pope’s letter is an important sign of what direction to follow.

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