Tuesday, December 14, 2010

China, the Nobel, the bishops and the Vatican: Who won, who lost

by Card. Joseph Zen Zekiun, sdb

Resistance to the Liu Xiaobo Nobel, the Patriotic Assembly of Catholic Representatives, celebrated as a victory, are a humiliation for China, a major economic power that shamefully ignores human rights. But the participation of bishops and priests in an act against the Pope is also a defeat for the Vatican and the Church. A passionate analysis by the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong.

(AsiaNews) The empty chair onstage in the Oslo municipal hall makes me remember the two empty chairs in the Synodal Hall, when in 1998, for the first time, I participated in the Synod of bishops: one was for Bishop Duan Ying Ming of Wan Xian, the other for his Coadjutor Bishop. Still for the Synod of two years ago, a delegation from China was not possible, because someone had insisted to include in the group an illegitimate bishop. In the Synod of 1998 I said: "In China there is no real religious freedom." Unfortunately, last month at the Consistory of November 19, I had to give the same bad news to my brethren Cardinals: "In China there is still no religious freedom."

The Eighth Assembly of the Representatives of the Chinese Catholics was "victoriously" successful, as “victoriously successful” was the preventing of Liu Xiaobo from going to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Are our leaders are truly proud of similar "victories"? The fact that China has become an economic power, allows them to ignore so shamefully the human rights? Those who bow to you for business interests, do they respect you in their hearts? Wake up! Please, save a little the dignity of our great nation, famous for its ancient civilization and its refined etiquette.

The Pope, in his letter to the Church in China in 2007, has gently explained the nature of the Catholic Church, which is recognized by all civilized nations of the world (see Letter of the Pope, Chapter 9, Paragraph 3). The Catholic Church is founded by Jesus on the Apostles headed by Saint Peter and today must be guided by the Pope, the successor of Peter and by the bishops, the successors of the Apostles. Therefore, the so-called democratic leadership of this Church through an Assembly that stands above the bishops is contrary to the nature of the Church (see Letter of Pope, Chapter 7, Paragraphs 1, 3, 5, 6, 7). Even some academics in China are of the opinion that it is time to correct this peculiar Chinese Church system so unusual in the complex of the universal Church, so that the Church in China can have those characteristics enjoyed by the universal Church (see the Annual Report on the Religions of the year 2010 by the Academy of Social Sciences in China).

It is incomprehensible how the Central Government has allowed to happen what should not have ever happened again. This destructive action can only create an impasse and so leave those with benefits gained to continue to enjoy them. The police, that should defend the safety of the people, has used violence to curb religious freedom and restrict personal freedom. This is a disgrace to our country. This fascist style and these brigand manners are diametrically opposed to the declared policy of a harmonious society. Therefore, what happened was a defeat for our Government.

Was there also a defeat for the Church since so many bishops, priests, nuns and faithful took part in the Assembly? We cannot say no. We are not like that clerk of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or like Fr. Jeroom Heyndrickx who, even after the Chende episode, still says that those bishops who attended the illegitimate ordination of a bishop are heroes, are winners.

Of course, we all know that there has been enormous pressure. But the fact is that the Letter of the Pope was not respected and that the Press Release of the Commission for the Church in China has not been taken into account. Where did the strength of faith go? The Holy Father has repeatedly said that we must be ready to accept the provisional defeat, to maintain the faith without compromises, and that the suffering accepted for faith will lead to real victory. These words of Holy Father have been forgotten?

On December 1, that is, after the events of Chengde and before the Assembly, during the Angelus, the Pope said that we must pray Our Lady Help of Christians... to support the bishops in China, so that they may bravely testify to the faith and put their hope in the Savior whom we expect. The Savior whom we expect not only refers to the coming Christmas this year, but also to the Savior who will come on the clouds of heaven to judge humankind. But perhaps our bishops and priests did not have the opportunity to hear these words...

At this point that clerk of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of peoples and Fr. Heyndrickx will say to me: "You, sitting comfortably on your sofa, you allow yourself to solemnly pronounce judgment on these your brethren." No, it is not true. I know I represent countless priests and faithful in China, of both the official and the underground communities. They are shocked, saddened, and bewildered. The wonder: "What has become our Church?" There is a priest who expressed himself thus on Internet: "Father Heyndrickx, we are not winners. We are sufferers. Keep to yourself your beautiful desires. I, as a priest in the front-line, I find suffering everywhere. Your wishes are built on us suffering priests. The larger your desires, the bigger our sorrows. It’s just like that."

In this situation where the police unleashed its wicked force and the news are hermetically closed, we do not know when the Holy See will have purged the truth and will pronounce a judgment. We can only pray that the Lord give us wisdom. In any case, please, do not do the same as in the case of the installation of Bishop Francis An Shu Xin of Baoding, when on which still nothing hasn't been said.

In the Pope’s book The Light of the World, published on 23 November, there is a passage that can help us in our reflection. When the reporter asked the Holy Father: "When you go deep into history, is not there a feeling of shock and sadness at the thought of how much and how often the Church has deviated from the main road, indicated to her by the Son of God?" The Pope answers: "At this time marked by scandals, we did experience this feeling of sadness and pain, seeing how miserable is the Church and how easily its members can fail in the following of Jesus Christ. The first thing is that this we have to experience this for our mortification, for our genuine humility. The second thing is that, despite this, He does not abandon the Church. He, despite the weakness shown in the Church by her members, raises up in her the Saints and thus manifests His presence."

In the mystery of the Mystical Body, let us share the burden of defeat. Perhaps we should recognise that we have not supported sufficiently with prayer our brothers and sisters in so serious difficulties. Then, let us do penance with them!

Lord, come and do not delay!

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