The articles published last week, penned by Card. John Tong, on dialogue between China and the Holy See, and Card. Joseph Zen, expressing doubts and difficulties, have sparked debate in China and worldwide. AsiaNews asks for responses from its many sources in China, who express their concerns regarding “overly politicized|” bishops; an "imperial" ideology and Chinese government "oppression". The first of a three part series.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Figures among China's Catholics have expressed their appreciation for Card. John Tong Hon, who penned an article published last week, taking stock of the dialogue between China and the Holy See. At the same time, many express skepticism towards his optimistic outlook, fearing that this dialogue will lead to nothing, given the oppression of religions that the Chinese government has been signaling for some time now. Some express their skepticism especially regarding some bishops of the official Church, judged too close to the Party and not to the Church.
Others criticize the harsh words of Card. Joseph Zen, who in another article spoke with great fervour of his doubts regarding the Vatican's so-called Ostpolitik, but various interventions echo his concerns, which are those of a considerable part of the underground community, which is perceived "forgotten" by the Vatican. In his article, Card. Tong sets out to show that the Vatican has not forgotten the concerns of the underground community (recognition of unofficial bishops; release of those in prison) in its dialogue with China.
Below we publish some of the responses we have received here at AsiaNews. For security reasons we can only make generic references to the identity of the authors (as per their directions). They are part of both the official and underground communities (BC)
The Cardinal's [Tong] discourse is very positive. To solve China's problems must follow the method of Jesus. Blind opposition can only lead to violence! The Church is a witness of love in action. This brings fruits of peace, joy, love, a blessing for the Church and for China. I think this style is the most important if we want to see a future for China. And another thing: I want to have faith in church leaders and the Pope.
Fr. Joe (North China)
Every word that Cardinal [Tong] wrote is balanced .... He also outlined the current problems in the official Church. His article rejects Card. Zen's view. In the past he was very brave, but after Pope Francis appointed Card. Parolin to deal with China-Vatican relations, he became quite extreme ... For example, he has publicly called on pseudo-loyal faithful to live their faith in the underground, leaving the path marked out by Pope Francis! …
John Tong highlighted that in the past the official Church would have split from the Catholic Church if it were not for St. John Paul II, who recognized and accepted [the bishops] illegitimate as legitimate. I think Card. Tong wants to give to the Chinese Church some guidelines before any agreement between China and the Vatican is established.
I regret that Card. Tong is so super-optimistic. I see that he follows the current policy of the Holy See, but the Chinese Church is very secularized and is controlled by the government in many aspects. I am not so optimistic. Sure, it's good to work for dialogue and communication, and be patient until the end, but we must remember that there is a big problem between the Vatican and China. It is not just a cultural difference, which may be overcome through dialogue and mutual communication. It's more than that. The Vatican is dealing with a government that is hostile and constantly oppresses the Church. If the Vatican is trying to please the government in every way and is compromised too much, it will not come to anything. I think that the Vatican should be gentle, but firm and be able to say 'no' when asked to sacrifice some principles. In addition, the universal Church and the Vatican have to give assurances and encouragement to the underground Church because it is in a situation of uncertainty. This is very discouraging for them because they feel abandoned by the Holy See.
Fr. Vincent (Northeast China)
Generally speaking, I see nothing new [in Card. Tong's article] although it is no bad thing to believe and argue that Pope Francis certainly will sign a positive agreement for both parties, rather than an agreement to abandon a part of the brothers and sisters of the Church. But does the request that the Council of Chinese Bishops accept and integrate underground bishops really mean anything? How many of these pseudo-bishops have the opportunity to influence the decisions made regarding Church affairs? Their compromise [to the political system] can never be justified because they have forgotten human rights, they do not tell the truth, never demand social justice ... they only preach love. This style of compromise is the biggest concern for the Chinese Church, which could lose even its apparent integrity. Chinese society has become perhaps the most hypocritical and has lost its integrity. The last thing we want to see is the Vatican quietly swallow this rotten fruit in the name of agreement between China and the Holy See.
Fr. John (Central China)
If what they are doing will allow the Chinese Church and the Universal Church to come to a visible communion, it is only natural that people will expect this and be happy. The point is to know if the bishops appointed by the government will be faithful to the principles of the Catholic Church. Or continue to insist that politics is their first priority? All of this is worrisome. It is understandable that the Holy See hopes for a normalization of Sino-Vatican relations. But it is up to the Chinese government whether the wishes of the Holy See are met in full. The Chinese imperial culture is deeply rooted in politics. And the Catholic Church [in China] is very politicized. Even if China signed an agreement, I fear that the problems would remain.