These articles are intended to present a very particular reality, which plays a determining role in the life of the Catholics in China, either by conscripting them under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or by casting them back into the catacombs. The article has been published on the website of the Foreign Missions of Paris. This presentation will allow the uninformed reader to understand what are the stakes of the agreement between China and the Vatican, which should be renewed for the second time in October.
Forty years after the founding of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, it is possible to decipher the purpose and the objectives that the leaders of the CCP had set themselves and that they hoped to achieve through its creation.
Immediate Preparation: A.D. 1956 (continued)
The preliminary meeting of the Preparatory Committee – July 24 & 25, 1956
“On July 24, 1956, during the plenary meeting, Dong Wenlong, vicar general of the diocese of Jinan, furnished explanations on the draft constitution and rules of the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. Li Debei, a priest from the diocese of Tianjin, added some explanations on the procedure followed in drafting the message drafted by the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics.”
“Li Chunwu, Vicar General of the Diocese of Beijing, proposed to establish a list of constituent members and to develop the organizational services of an Office of the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. After the meeting, all groups had in-depth discussions on the explanations and proposals mentioned above, expressing their opinions and proposing amendments.”
“On July 25, 1956, the last plenary session of this assembly took place, under the chairmanship of Li Weiguang, administrator of the diocese of Nanjing. The members unanimously adopted, with enthusiasm and raising of hands, the text of the message of the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics.”
“They fully agreed to lay the foundation for the organizational services of an office to prepare the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. During this session, they brought together the various proposals put forward for the amendment of the draft constitution of the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics.”
“The session was entrusted the Preparatory Bureau with the power to introduce the amendments. After the closing speech delivered by Catholic Yang Shida, the preliminary meeting was successfully completed. The same day, in the afternoon, the ecclesiastical authorities and the lay Catholics who had taken part in the meeting put their names at the end of the text of the message.”
“The preliminary assembly received congratulations from clerics, Catholic laity and patriotic organizations from Beijing, Tianjin, Shenyang, Shanghai, Wuhan, Inner Mongolia, Shenba (Shaanxi), Jining, Heze (Shandong), etc. Led by the representatives of the Catholics of Beijing, children offered flowers and presented their congratulations to this preliminary assembly.”
“On July 22, 1956, the members who participated in the Preliminary Meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics united with the ecclesiastical authorities of the diocese of Beijing and more than 2,000 Catholics to participate, in the church from the west of the capital, at a solemn Mass during which they prayed for peace. Bishop Wang Wencheng celebrated the holy sacrifice, assisted by Bishops Zhao Zhensheng, Yi Huanhua, Li Boyu and Zhong Huaimu.”
Meetings with Party Hierarchs
During the period when the Preliminary Meeting was taking place, Xi Zhongxun, Secretary General of the State Council, used the cultural club of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to invite Catholic clergymen and lay people attending the meeting to take part in “conversations.” These took place in the afternoon of July 22, 1956.
The Catholic representatives explained how the religious policy of the Party was carried out in different parts of the country and affirmed that the report of this meeting – “expressed the hope of greater help from the government to develop normal religious activities in all the dioceses.”
Xi, for his part, took the opportunity to once again explain the Center's religious policy and “spoke openly and sincerely to everyone, engaging in an intense exchange of views.” Without failing to “impart urgent directives” of a political nature on the patriotic movement.
Four days later, on July 26, it was Prime Minister Zhou Enlai's turn to receive in audience “the bishops, apostolic administrators, vicars general, priests and Catholics from various regions of China” who had participated in the Preliminary Meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics.
The Premier, assisted by He Chengxiang and Xu Ying (Director and Vice-Director of the Religious Affairs Bureau) and Gao Shan, Director of the First Office of the State Council, personally greeted the speakers, then asked them many questions about the religious life of the dioceses and about the progress made by the patriotic movement in Catholic circles.
The Bishop of Nanchong, Msgr. Wang Wencheng, made a brief speech on behalf of all the Catholic “representatives” present and presented to the Prime Minister and Chairman Mao the homage of the Catholics.”
The public account that appeared in a Tianjin periodical does not mention the content of the “conversation” nor does it specify what were the “indications and directives” given to Catholics by the prime minister.