Pope and Cardinals : Consensus on China
by Bernardo Cervellera
Benedict XVI spent some time with participants at the meeting on the Church in China. Cardinal Bertone and Cardinal Shan satisfied with the outcome; Cardinal Zen enthusiastic. A permanent Commission forthcoming. China’s Catholics await a letter from the Pope.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI “showed a deep understanding of the China dossier” and at the end of the meeting stayed for quite some time with the Cardinals and other participants at the meeting on China which took place at the Vatican: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told AsiaNews. There is a lot of satisfaction regarding the outcome of the meeting as well as expectation for the Pope’s letter and the establishment of a Commission on China. “The atmosphere of the encounter was very cordial and fraternal – said the Cardinal Secretary of State – allowing everyone to freely express their concerns”.
Commenting on the Vatican press office statement, Cardinal Bertone underlined the value of the “inspiring witness” of the underground Church and it’s “communion with the Supreme Pontiff” in the “near totality” of its’ bishops and priests, even in the official Church, recognised by the Government.
Underlining the need for a “free and peaceful journey of witness”, the secretary of state said : “I truly hope that a constructive relationship of respect can be established with the governing authorities [of Beijing] to overcome past misunderstandings and that we can work together for the good - and I repeat the good - of the Chinese people”.
Card. Paul Shan, bishop emeritus of Kaohsiung (Taiwan), who was present at the meeting, also spoke of the “sincere and frank” atmosphere of discussions. “The statement published two days ago – explained the prelate – reflects very well the feelings of all those involved”. The cardinal from Taiwan underlined that “the Pope’s letter will be very important” and that it will “deal with the most salient points regarding the situation in China”.
Card. Joseph Zen of Hong Kong is fully satisfied with the work carried out over the two days, which he deems “very, very positive”. “The organisation, the management, the documentation were perfect. – he told AsiaNews – You can see that there was a lot of dedication to the subject and that they had the outcome of the meeting at heart. It was a very important moment for the entire Vatican, so much so that members participated from the Secretary of State from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, from the Doctrine of Faith etc..
Everyone expressed themselves freely with great cordiality and frankness, and listened openly without the slightest sign of impatience. Everybody desired to understand the truth, get the facts clear, interpret them together and find solutions.
This meeting is a beginning, and it has shown that collaboration is possible. Which is a very positive sign for the proposed Commission on China. The Commission has been approved in principle, but it’s definitive composition has yet to be approved”.
From Hong Kong, Fr. Gianni Criveller, PIME, expert from the Holy Spirit Study Centre, points out some important elements of the statement issued by the Holy See press office: “I was struck in a positive way – he told AsiaNews – by the explicit reference to the sufferance of many bishops, priests and faithful who have maintained a clear and limpid loyalty to the Catholic faith and the Holy See. It was also recognised publicly and explicitly for the first time by the Holy See, that the great majority of bishops from the official Church are in communion with the Holy Father. In my opinion these words have enormous symbolic value: they are a declaration of the failure of the Chinese regimes religious policies, which has been trying for decades to create a national Church independent of Rome”.
“The reference to the divine constitution of the Church is also very important: it is governed by bishops, the apostles successors, in communion with Peter, their head. The church in China instead is still submitted to the control of an Association wanted by the political party and manipulated by a certain Liu Bainian, who persists in carrying out an incredible quantity of injustices against Catholics. He, in fact, holds primary responsibility for the illegitimate consecrations in 2000 and 2006, which created profound divisions and conflicts between the Catholic communities”.
On the imminent letter that the Pope will write to the Chinese Catholics Fr. Criveller says: “The Holy Father has all the necessary information to write to the Catholics in China. He can help us face the principle problems of this Church. At the moment the most urgent problems are : evangelization (above all of the young); the challenge of secularization; the choice of new bishops (often very young); formation (of bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful); unity; freedom from the control of the Patriotic Association and its secretary Liu Bainian. I am sure that the Chinese Catholics will receive the Pope’s words with devotion and gratitude. They will receive them with total adhesion of heart and mind, whichever community they belong to”.