09/27/2018, 16.10
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Synod: Questions remain over participation of two Chinese bishops

The news, if confirmed - the Vatican press office said it had no indications in this regard - would point to a positive change in Beijing's policy. But who decided their presence in Rome?

Rome (AsiaNews) - Some questions have arisen regarding the participation of two bishops from the People's Republic of China at the Synod of Bishops on Youth, which opens next week.

News agencies are reporting comments made by Wang Zuo'an, current number two of the "United Front" to representatives of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics and the Council of Chinese Bishops.

If confirmed - the Vatican press office said it had no indications in this regard – the news would indicate a positive change in Beijing's policy following the signing of the Provisional Agreement, given that on previous occasions the government had denied visas. Chinese bishops were invited by John Paul II to the 1998 Synod and by Benedict XVI to that of 2005. In both cases nothing came of the invitations, as on other occasions, starting from the Second Vatican Council.

There is, however, one doubt. The Episcopal constitution Episcopalis communio of Pope Francis on the Synod establishes (Article 2) that "The Members of the Synod Assemblies are those foreseen by can. 346 of the CIC ". This particualr Code of Canon Law, in Can. 346 - §1 establishes that the participating bishops are elected by the episcopal conferences or have the right to participate according to the norms of the conferences themselves (usually they are presidents) or are appointed directly by the Pope.

None of the indicated possibilities seems to concern the two Chinese bishops, also because the Council of Chinese bishops is not recognized by the Vatican, nor can it be in its current composition. And not for a nominal question, but because its structure is not that of an episcopal conference: there are bishops (those from the underground) that are not part of it, while lay people are also admitted.

It is possible that Msgr. Camilleri, undersecretary for relations with the States, brought a papal invitation in his meetings in Beijing for the signing of the agreement with the Chinese government. But the fact that the news being reported is of the participation of the two bishops at the Synod  as representative of the government and that nothing has been said of a possible invitation by Francis reinforces the concern of those who fear that the agreement ends up authorizing the government to control and "guide" the Church. In any case, there are no bishops  representing the unofficial community. This was a lost opportunity to mark a new step towards the reconciliation of Chinese Catholics.

Moreover doubts have been doubled regarding the dubious identity of the two "chosen". Monsignor John Baptist Yang Xiaotin, who studied at the Pontifical Urbaniana University and continued his studies in the USA. Appointed bishop by the Pope and approved by the government, he is a member of the Patriotic Association and is a protagonist. On public occasions, he glorified the regime by repeating the slogans on the "independence" of the Church.

Msgr. Joseph Guo Jincai (see photo) is one of the seven excommunicated bishops recently readmitted into ecclesial communion. He attended the seminary of Shijiazhuang, in Hebei. He is the secretary general of the Council of Chinese bishops, a key post for the regime's control of the Church. The role is in fact entrusted by the Communist Party to a person of extreme trust who works publicly as a state official, with the same rank, salary and political position. (FP)

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