The Patriotic Association: Prayer of suffrage for Benedict XVI

The death of the Pope Emeritus has also landed on the website, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. At the head of the 'official' body is the archbishop of Beijing, Monsignor Joseph Li Shan, who was appointed in 2007 with the assent of Benedict XVI. The Taiwanese government, meanwhile, has designated the former vice-president, the Catholic Chen Chien-jen, to attend the funeral in the Vatican as its official representative.



Milan (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "We entrust Benedict XVI to God's mercy and ask Him to grant him eternal rest in heaven". With these words even - the official website promoted by the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, the ecclesial body controlled by the Communist Party - yesterday joined the condolences of the Universal Church for the death of the pope emeritus.

The home page of the site features a picture of the pope emeritus with the year of his birth and death taken from the VaticanNews website, with the Vatican logo prominently displayed.

On the Patriotic Association's site the news of the death is given by republishing the official notification of the death issued by the Holy See, preceded by the title 'Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI rests in the arms of the Lord'. These few lines  would seem obvious were it not for the context in which they are published: an 'official' website where most of the news usually concerns the commitment of Catholics to the faithful application of Xi Jinping's thought on socialism with a Chinese face in the religious sphere.

News about the pope and the Vatican, on the other hand, never appears, in the name of the principle of the "autonomy" of the Church in China from foreign influences, affirmed by the Patriotic Association. It should be remembered that since last summer, the 'official' body has been headed by the Archbishop of Beijing, Monsignor Joseph Li Shan, a prelate appointed in 2007 with the prior consent given by Benedict XVI himself, according to the procedure in force before the 2018 Provisional Agreement on the appointment of bishops.

Much more space is dedicated to the death of Benedict XVI on, the most widely read website by Catholic communities in mainland China. The gallery of images of the life of the pope emeritus, which also includes a photograph showing him with a group of Chinese faithful on the parvis of St. Peter's Basilica, is particularly sigtnificant.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan has arranged for the faithful to express their condolences for the passing of Pope Ratzinger at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where the diocese will meet for a suffrage Mass on Wednesday at 6pm.

From Taiwan, meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen has designated former Vice-President, the Catholic Chen Chien-jen, to attend the funeral of Benedict XVI in Rome on 5 January on behalf of the Taipei government. In this same role, Chen Chien-jen had taken part in the beatification of John Paul II on 4 September, meeting Pope Francis on that occasion.

In 2005, for the funeral of John Paul II, it was then President Chen Shui-bian who had personally travelled to the Vatican in a gesture that had aroused Beijing's ire. The government of Taipei, with which the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations, expressed its condolences for the death of Benedict XVI in an official note in which it wrote that the pope emeritus will be remembered throughout the world "for his humility and his caring for all humanity."