Rome (AsiaNews) - Today's Episcopal ordination in Changsha shows that Maoism is still alive in China. For over a month, the Chinese and foreign newspapers have been full of stories about the dismissal of Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party secretary of Chongqing, famous for his Maoist revival of songs and readings of the Great Helmsman, a ruthless campaign against triads, and an equally unscrupulous corruption.
The fall of the "god-princeling" Bo, along with that of his wife - who is even suspected of murder - was immediate: as soon as Wen Jiabao warned against the return of Maoism and a new Cultural Revolution, Bo Xilai was replaced and criminal charges laid (15.3.2012 Bo Xilai, Maoist prince of Chongqing, torpedoed).
On the same occasion, Wen Jiabao promised deep political and economic reforms for the country and many have hoped that - with the same readiness with which Bo was eliminated - there would be new freedoms. Instead a subtler but equally totalitarian Maoism, continues to be present in Chinese society: the media, economy, religions.
Regarding the field of religion, some prominent Chinese personalities point the finger at Zhu Weiqun, vice president of the United Front, famous for his speech against religion and against religious conversions of party members (see: 20/12/2011 "Get behind me Satan": No religion for the Chinese Communist Party members.). Zhu has a curriculum similar to that of Bo Xilai: he studied journalism with him, similarly he is the son of high ranking party leaders, and he also supports a resumption of Maoism.
Thanks to his policies in the United Front, which dominates the state administration for religious affairs, religious communities suffer endless controls, the same as the underground community, destined to be canceled, after a process of "brainwashing".
For months now groups of priests and bishops of the underground Church are taken, isolated and subjected to political sessions to make them understand the benefits of the Party's religious policies (see: 07/04/2012 Police pressure on underground community. Easter in the Church of Silence).
The Maoism inherent in these policies is also evident in the ordinations of bishops: each new bishop must be above all an instrument of the Party and then the official Catholic Church. In this way, each Episcopal ordination becomes an endowment of this policy, giving the bishops appointments, salaries, honorifics, and turning them into quasi low-ranking quasi officials of the Chinese government.
As a result they are chosen according to their use to the Party and not for the pastoral care of the population or according to the pope. This is what happened in last year's ordinations in Leshan and Shantou, with candidates chosen by the government and without papal mandate. And even if there are candidates wanted the pope, the Party forces the neo-ordained to suffer the presence of illegitimate and excommunicated bishops, as was the case last March 19 in Nanchong, and Changsha today. The two candidates are good pastors, but it was the government to choose who should and who should not be invited to consecrate.
It is now clear that it is the Party who gives the official stamp of ecclesial orthodoxy not the Pope (07/25/2011 Beijing pontificates against Vatican "threats").
This Caesar -popery China is as obtuse as it is dangerous for the Church and China.
The meddling of the Party in rites and ordinations, candidates and presiding bishops is a sign of the small-mindedness of the party cadres, linked to age-old patterns, overcome by history. The second largest economy, which is preparing to go to the moon, still thinks like the absolutist monarchies of the West in the 1600s.
The Episcopal ordinations "polluted" by the presence of illegitimate bishops hamper the work of the Church and upset the faithful, undermining the unity between communities. But they also produce resentment towards a totalitarian state-master and, by doing so, increase resistance and also the possibility of riots. In recent months, during seizures of bishops to force them to attend illegitimate ordinations them there were communities who rebelled against the police (Shenyang), and staged demonstrating in cities (Wanzhou). And all this even as President Hu Jintao launched his swan song on the "harmonious society".
This year the party is planning another 5 or 6 illegitimate Episcopal ordinations. Would it not be worthwhile for Beijing to let the Pope be the pope and the Chinese government be a government, leaving freedom in religious matters? In this way it could earn the trust of the faithful and the sympathy of the Christian communities of the entire world. And the international community and the business would be able to draw breath: for where there is no respect for religious freedom, the other freedoms - such as economic - are mine fields.