Church in China--a delicate situation
Relations have improved lately under Benedict XVI. A set back was encounted, however, when the government ordained two new bishops in April and May without the approval of Rome. On May 4 the following statement was released from the Holy See:
“I can inform you of the position of the Holy See regarding the episcopal ordination of the priests Joseph Ma Yinglin e Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, last Sunday, April 30, in Kunming (province of Yunnan) and Wednesday, May 3, in Wuhu (province of Anhui).
“The Holy Father has learned of the news with profound displeasure, since an act so relevant for the life of the Church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out in both cases without respecting the requirements of communion with the pope.
“It is a grave wound to the unity of the Church, for which severe canonical sanctions, as it is known, are foreseen (cfr. canon 1382 from the Code of Canon Law).
“According to the information received, bishops and priests have been subjected – on the part of external entities to the Church – to strong pressures and to threats, so that they take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, besides, contrary to their conscience. Various prelates have given a refusal to similar pressures, while others were not able to do anything but submit with great interior suffering. Episodes of this kind produce lacerations not only in the Catholic community but also in the internal conscience itself.
“We are therefore facing a grave violation of religious liberty, notwithstanding that it is sought to present the two episcopal ordinations as a proper act to provide the pastors of vacant dioceses.
“The Holy See follows with attention the troubled path of the Catholic Church in China and although aware of some peculiarities of such a path, believed and hoped that similar, deplorable episodes would by now belong to the past.
“Holy See considers it now her precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the entire Catholic Church, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to those bishops and priests who have been obligated, against conscience, to carry out or to participate in the episcopal ordination, which neither the candidates or the consecrating bishops want to carry out without having received the pontifical mandate.
“If it is true the news according to which other episcopal ordinations are to take place in the same manner, the Holy See would like to repeat and stress the need for respect of the liberty of the Church and of the autonomy of her institutions from any external interference, and eagerly wishes that such unacceptable acts of violent and inadmissible constrictions are not repeated.
“The Holy See has, on various occasions, stressed her willingness for honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities to find solutions that would satisfy the legitimate needs of both parties.
“Initiatives such as the above mentioned do not favor such dialogue but instead create new obstacles against it.”
AsiaNews has been receiving continuous messages from Chinese priests and bishops, stating their approval for the Vatican stand. Anthony Liu Bainian, the PA deputy chairman, remains the only person defending the decision to go ahead with the ordinations of Kunming and Wuhu. There has been no official reaction from the government so far.
Tomorrow at 9am, in the Cathedral of Shenyang (Liaoning, north-east China), there will be another episcopal ordination: Fr Paul Pei Junmin will be consecrated as coadjutor bishop of Shenyang by the ordinary bishop, Mgr Jin Peixian. The very important fact is that this new ordination takes place with the approval of the Holy See. “Fr Pei Junmin received the approval of the Holy Father,” a Vatican source told AsiaNews. “And he is an excellent candidate from all points of view.”
Fr Pei Junmin, 37 years, entered the seminary when he was 16. He was ordained in 1992 and worked for a year in the parish of the cathedral. Then he was sent by his bishop to Philadelphia in the US to study Sacred Scripture. He was among the first group of Chinese priests sent abroad for studies. So far, he has taught Sacred Scripture and he was dean of studies and vice-rector at the major seminary in Shenyang that has 70 vocations. The diocese of Shenyang has 100,000 faithful.
AsiaNews sent Fr Pei a message of congratulations for his ministry: “Dear Fr Pei, we want to express our happiness and joy about your consecration as bishop of the Catholic Church, Our ties to the Rock of Peter are a guarantee of strength and edification. From Italy and the world, we are praying for you. We are honoured to have met you in Rome. We work ever more closely for the mission of the church in China and for unity with the universal Church.”
Catholics in China deserve our prayers. As late as April 28th, seven Catholics were arrested in Hebei.