Fr. Wendao exercises his ministry in northern China. Holder of several diplomas obtained abroad, the ecclesiastic forwarded to the Institute of Pontifical Missionary Works (PIME) his direct testimony on the situation of Catholics in the Middle Kingdom.
Fr. Wendao’s observation of the State of the Church in China is clear: “Not a day goes by without everything being done to undermine the influence of the Church. The closures of Catholic orphanages are increasing, churches remain closed; at school, directives were issued to investigate the religion of students and teachers, with threats on top of everything else,” said the missionary in a testimony published on April 14, 2021.
In this context, Fr. Wendao wonders about the relevance of the agreement signed between the Vatican and China in September 2018 and renewed two years later.
According to the clergyman, the normalization of relations between Rome and Beijing was first seen as an opportunity by the Catholics of the Middle Kingdom:
“Everyone was waiting for that “better day” following the signing…The media even began reporting that the Pope might visit China shortly… Everyone was waiting for some concessions to Church authorities and in the overall interest of the Church,” he wrote.
“In view of such hopes, Chinese Catholics gradually began to accept official bishops” chosen by Rome at the end of the agreement, “as Church pastors. An organization not recognized by the Church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, became the official model, but this blurred things for the faithful,” laments Fr. Wendao.
Worse, according to him, “Some priests started to dream about becoming bishop, waving the agreement as a flag as if they were at the Beijing Liu'yin Street market, to their own benefit disregarding the interests of the Church.”
According to the priest’s testimony, they quickly went from utopia to dystopia: “what happened subsequently cooled the faithful. Many churches have been dismantled; minor seminaries have been closed; children under 18 have been banned from taking part in Church activities; Church related businesses have been shut down.”
“The Faith Press Weekly has been suspended, the Xinde (faith) Organization was forced to toe the line. Every church has had to hang posters and flags to promote the Communist Party's ideas. Last but not least, all public religious celebrations have been banned because of the pandemic.”
Chinese Catholics Feel Abandoned by Rome
But what is most poignant in Fr. Wendao’s testimony is the feeling of abandonment by the hierarchy, felt by the Chinese faithful: “In the past, when such things happened, the universal Church was eager to encourage and support the Chinese Church. Now, because of this “Agreement”, the Pope's voice of justice has been silent.”
The attitude of Rome vis-à-vis the situation in Hong Kong, in a situation of normalization by Beijing, is astonishing: “Despite the protests by millions against Hong Kong's extradition bill, which has seen millions of people descend into the streets, and the ongoing persecution, the Holy See has been silent,” observes the priest.
Fr. Wendao underlines another aspect of the problem which often takes second place in the various analyzes: “Although China is the most important missionary zone for the Church in Asia, Church affairs in China are no longer handled by the Congregation of Evangelization of Peoples, which is responsible for missionary work, but are now in the hands of the Secretariat of State, the political arm of the Holy See. The actions of the Church have become political in order to serve political ends.”
And the priest gravely declared: Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s optimism, the enthusiastic voices of the official Chinese bishop are there to conceal the real life of the Church, which is one of persecution, and covering all the voices full of painful emotions.” A judgment that recalls another: that of Cardinal Joseph Zen, who never ceases to point the finger at what he sees as the ambiguous role played by the Secretary of State of the Holy See.
At the end of such a dramatic observation, Fr. Wendao still wants to believe in the solicitude of the Holy Father and addresses him like a son: “Against all these injustices, they have only the weakest of voices, and now, in light of such a heavy reality, will the universal Church remain silent and ignorant of their call for help?... Holy Father of the universal Church: Can you hear the weakest and truest voiced of the Church in China?”