08/17/2010, 00.00
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Underground Catholic: How sad to see the changes in Mgr. An Shuxin

by Wang Zhicheng
Bishop An is now the official bishop of Baoding, after his militancy in the underground Church for 25 years and having spent 10 years in prison. His choice has divided the faithful of the diocese. For Catholics, he is being used as a puppet by the Chinese government to divide the Church. The time of martyrdom is not yet over and unity with the pope is necessary. Prayer to Our Lady of Donglu. The suffered witness of a believer of the Church in China.

Baoding (AsiaNews) - I was shocked to hear the news that on August 7 last Mgr. Francis An Shuxin, coadjutor bishop of Baoding, and in the past of the underground community, was officially installed by the deliberate arrangement of the Chinese government [1].

Senior officials of National United Front Work Department, State Administration for Religious Affairs, United Front Work Department of Hebei Province, Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Hebei Province, municipal officials of Baoding government departments, and officials from Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China attended the ceremony. All this shows how much importance the Chinese government gives in this case.

Some people maintain Mgr. An will change position.  It is said he often takes one step only to radically change position at the next. This saying seems to have some truth.

In the early 1980s, the Church emerged from a dark period and religious activities were soon revived. An Shuxin was a young fervent Catholic from Anzhuang, Xushui county, who hoped to consecrate himself to the Lord. His vocation was nurtured by Father Zhu Yousan of the same village, who had deep a faith and missionary zeal.

Thanks to the priest’s recommendation and some contacts, Mgr. Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding recognized this fervent youth as one of the first batch of workers called by the Lord to serve in his vineyard. Then, Mgr. Fan, regardless of An’s inadequate education (primary level), ordained him a priest on 1 January 1981. An was honoured to be the first new priest ordained to Baoding diocese since the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

On 2 May 1992, An and James Su Zhimin were ordained bishops together, with Su as the ordinary and An his auxiliary. Between 1996 and 1997, both Su and An were arrested. After 10 years’ imprisonment, An served in the “loyal Church” [underground church – ed] for 25 years. The two bishops, were a ray of hope and guiding light for all “loyal Catholics” to maintain the principles of truth.


An Shuxin’s First Step: Finally “freed”

In August 2006, Mgr. An concelebrated with Baoding’s patriotic Bishop Su Changshan [2], and seven other priests at the Donglu Church. Then, he was released on 24th of the same month, enjoying his freedom and living in An village church of Xushui county.

On 9 December 2006, Baoding diocese held a funeral for the illicitly-ordained Bishop Su Changshan in Donglu. The main celebrant, surprisingly, was Mgr. An, who had been recently freed. At this point, well-informed observers immediately recognized that Mgr An was powerless and was being used.



Second Step: Enjoying vice-chairmanship of Patriotic Association

In 2009, when An accepted the position of the vice chairman of Baoding Patriotic Association, the diocese and whole Church in China were shocked. This move reminded people of the days when he and Bishop Su Zhimin were ordained as “iron-like loyal” bishops by the prominent Bishop Fan, wondering why “they came from the same house but now act so differently.”


Third Step: Filling the Episcopal See

Although the ordinary Bishop of Baoding, Mgr. Su Zhimin is still imprisoned, the Chinese government asked Mgr. An to be installed. The Mass was presided by Mgr. An, and concelebrated by retired Mgr. Liu Jinghe and Mgr. Fang Jianping, both of Tangshan as well as 24 priests. Before the Mass, the letter of appointment by Patriotic Association and Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China was read out. A bishop’s ring and a mitre were presented. The Mass lasted for more than one hour.

Despite this it happened, reminiscent of Japan during the Sino-Japanese war, when Tokyo wanted to dismember China. This time, Mgr. An has also become a puppet. He has gained power to realize the government’s plan to “eliminate the loyal Church and strengthen the self-governed Church”. Many people regard it as a farce, claiming An grovelled to please and gain support from certain high-ranking people. He has been so timorous that he could not withdraw, as was the case with the first illicitly ordained bishop Dong Guangqing[3]. Time has not stopped but some people’s mind have regressed, and such things happened even today.

During the decades-long persecution, some gave in to government’s rewards and changed position. They even defended themselves by claiming they had acted according to Holy See’s instructions. This continued until the Congregation of Evangelization of Peoples was forced to issue a statement to put a halt to it. In February 2010, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent Mgr. An a letter, stating that his situation was special, and that joining the Patriotic Association should have been avoided.

If the care shown by the Holy See toward Mgr. An was to reflect God’s love, Mgr. An’s manipulator from behind did not accept it. Instead, they used it for their own wicked purposes, by publically revealing Mgr. An’s third step.

In 2008 strange reports surfaced of people claiming to see black smoke coming out from under the statue on top of the Sheshan shrine. Black smoke symbolizes confusion and evil ideas; Sheshan shrine is mentioned in the papal letter [4]. The message was clear: the Church in China suffers from confusion, because the devil is loathe to leave her in peace. The acute struggle between the devil and the Church is still raging.

Although Bishop An is special, he acts like a government pawn to be played against the Holy See. From there, it is spreading its effects. Soon the next farce will be staged. Now it is time for Rome to evaluate its own strategy.

The late Bishop Fan of Baoding also warned: People are forcing us to break away from the Pope, our head, and to become independent of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, in short, to dismember us. Is it possible? Can we allow others to cut off our head? No, it is impossible. Faced with the devil, what attitude should a Christian take? Must one be lenient and humble? Can you still bow and obey orders? No, we must remain firm in the truth, preserving the faith. Compromise and surrender is not the way.

China has no religious freedom. Instead, there are many soft policies, even though it is better than before. But this cannot be a reason for us to betray. Let us think of the Chinese martyrs. What kind of witnesses have they professed? They did not betray the faith or blame the controversy over rites for causing difficulties. [5] Instead, they sacrificed themselves for the faith. Cardinal Ignatius Kung (Gong Pinmei), Mgr. Fan Xueyan, Father Zhang Boda, Mgr. Su Zhimin are outstanding examples. They learnt from Jesus praying at Gethsemane: Listen to God’s words and do as He wants.

On July 5, 2010, Cardinal Dias of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples sent a letter to Chinese clergy, in which he said: “An ecclesiastic will therefore resist any temptation to enrich himself with material goods or seek favours for his family or ethnic group, or nurture unwholesome ambitions of making a career for himself in society or in politics. These things are entirely foreign to the priestly vocation and would be a serious distraction from his mission to lead the faithful like the good shepherd on the path of holiness, justice and peace..” This is precisely what our mainland Chinese clergy should reflect upon!

Perhaps we are familiar with the parable of the lost sheep and ninety-nine that were left in the wilderness. Jesus said: Who among you, having one hundred sheep and lost one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go in search of the lost one? Certainly, the one that is lost is perhaps disobedient and curious, wanting to look around to find new and interesting places. Its heart might not fear to be in a strange environment or encountering disasters. Therefore, it was happy all along. It walked its own path, detaching itself from the flock and its shepherd. It did not want to follow the crowd, to act together and move forward together.  Wanting to walk its own way, it lost the way.

Here, I would like to point out that we are a Catholic community. The pope is our vicar of Christ on earth. The pope is the shepherd, and we are the flock. Our actions have to follow the Pope’s teaching and directions. We don’t detach ourselves from the flock, and we understand the meaning of the shepherd finding his sheep: “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance."

In Gethsemane Jesus said to his disciples, "Pray, do not fall into temptation." These words are applicable to Baoding diocese, where loved ones are in pain while enemies delight. We must learn to be humble, to ask the Our Lady of Donglu[6] to pray for us. In this way we will not forget the persecution of the anti-colonialist period and anti-Christian Boxer Rebellion in 1900.


Let us sing a song of Our Lady of Donglu to conclude:


Holy Mary, our mother in heaven.

You are the Queen of Donglu, the help of faithful.

Please protect our pope, protect our Holy Church, protect our faithful.

Our Lady of Donglu, Have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Donglu, please help us.

My heart relies on you, cries to you.

The Queen of Donglu, Pray for us!


[1] See AsiaNews.it, 07/08/2010 Bishop An Shuxin, former underground bishop installed as ordinary of Baoding.

[2] Mgr Su Changshan was not in communion with the Holy See .

[3] Mgr. Bernardino Dong Guangqing (1917-2007) In April 1958 he was consecrated bishop by the will of the Communist Party, but without the permission of the pope.

[4] See Letter of Pope Benedict XVI ... the bishops and faithful of the Catholic Church in mainland China, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2007

[5] A theological diatribe that broke out in the seventeenth century and continued for over a century and a half, over the cult of Confucius and of ancestors, that were typical of traditional Chinese culture. According to Matteo Ricci and the Jesuits, they were only a civil cult and Christians were able to continue practicing even after baptism. According to the Dominicans and Franciscans they were idolatrous worship to be prohibited. In 1742 a papal bull forbade their practice. In 1939, Pius XII affirmed their “civil" nature and granted Catholics permission to practice. According to several experts, the dispute has prevented the evangelization of China because it has created the impression that the Catholic Church was the enemy of Chinese culture.

[6] Donglu shrine is 20 km from Baoding and arose after an apparition of the Virgin during the Boxer persecution.  


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