05/31/2017, 14.42
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Priest from Official Church: No to a political compromise between China and the Vatican

by Fr Paul

The need for greater clarity from the Holy See; the bitterness of division between official and underground communities: "Are we not all serving Christ’s cause?" The story of the difficulties a Chinese priest faces in his daily life.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The pain caused by the division that still exists between official and underground communities; bitterness provoked by the voices of compromise and ambiguity that apparently dominate dialogue between Beijing and the Holy See: these are some of the everyday experiences of a priest from the official Church (located in the Southeast). In addition to highlighting the corrosion of the relationship of trust, the priest notes a certain slowness on the part of the Vatican in giving direction to the Church in China. The example mentioned is Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin, consecrated auxiliary bishop of Shanghai in 2012, with the consent of the Holy See and the government. Bishop Ma Daqin had refused to belong to the Patriotic Association and for this reason is still - even today – under house arrests. According to the author, the Vatican was not ready to appoint him as ordinary bishop of the diocese, giving the impression of abandoning him to his destiny. This silence has led to an even more confusing and complicated situation: Msgr. Ma eventually retracted his claims about the Patriotic Association; the Shanghai community is increasingly divided; the diocese of this great metropolis does not yet have a bishop. Here is the story of Fr. Paul [not his real name] entrusted to AsiaNews.

Several months ago I voiced some simple impressions regarding negotiations between China and the Vatican, which also appeared online. Since then nothing has happened to boost hopes or throw some light on the situation.  Indeed, it seems that the darkness is growing and hope is diminishing, since negotiations between China and the Vatican are not based on politics, but on the faith. If they were based solely on politics, they would demand compromise, but if they are based on the faith, they must maintain the religious direction. Living in an atheistic environment makes us realize that there is progress without a future and no way out, given that the mutual trust between people and the goodness in human and natural relationships are being seriously undermined.

In recent times Catholics from all corners of the country have been organizing pilgrimages to Spain and Portugal. But since these initiatives are undertaken by unofficial priests, the faithful who intend to take part in you generally advocate for the 'clandestine church'. We, the priests and faithful of the so-called 'official church', when we attempt to make contact, encounter difficulties precisely because of this fact. Such a sense of alienation in a community with the same faith produces much suffering in the most sensitive people. In reality, the Patriotic Association has no relationship with us priests; we have no official assignment. As priests, we serve the people of God in the Church, but we often have to endure the fact of being labelled 'traitors' and 'unfaithful'. Underground priests often exploit this summary definition to attract faithful to what they consider to be 'the true faith'.

My pastoral ministry is in a large city in the south east. In the villages around my district there are more than ten churches under the care of clandestine clergy. And often I come into contact with the faithful who come from these churches to live in my district. The experience of the Cross is part of this path.

After graduating from Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai; being ordained a priest and embarking on the pastoral ministry, I do not understand why I have to deal with 'two churches': the 'underground church', which seems to have drawn clear lines of demarcation, and the 'official church' which despite all of its best efforts, falls easy prey to ‘slipping’ in its journey. Sometimes I doubt and ask: Are not we all serving Christ’s cause?

Regarding relations between China and the Vatican, I personally believe that the Church's religious leadership is the most important thing. A clear example is the 'testimony of July 7' in Shanghai a few years ago. The witness that the Church expects has already been given.

I speak of Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who for many years has had contact with the Patriotic Association, but on July 7, 2012, the day of his episcopal ordination,  resigned. With his public resignation, Msgr. Ma Daqin has shown the behavior of faith.

After the deaths of the bishops Jin Luxian and Fan Zhongliang, why did the Holy See dither and fail to announce Msgr. Ma as the ordinary bishop of Shanghai?

Perhaps it was afraid that after the announcement, Mgsr. Ma would be considered underground just like Msgr. Fan? This fact would have been more useful to us, in comparison to the changes that have created the present, highly embarrassing situation.

The Chinese need faith, they need true light. China and the Vatican are continuing negotiations: personally and sincerely I hope that Chinese Catholics will not hide the light of faith, pushing them to the compromise in the face of atheism. After all, we live in a faithless country where corrupt officials empty the poor people's purse without any shame.

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