China: Cardinal Bertone Sends Letter to Chinese Priests

Source: FSSPX News

On the occasion of the year for priests, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Holy, addressed a long letter to the priests of the People’s Republic of China, dated November 10, but released on November 16 in English, Italian and Chinese on the Internet Website of Radio Vatican and of the agency of the Congregation for Evangelization, Fides. Therein he brought up “reconciliation within the Catholic community and respectful and constructive dialog with civil authorities, without renouncing the principles of the Catholic Faith.”
Far from thinking about “final assessments”, two years only after the publication of the Pope’s letter to Chinese Catholic (May 2007), the Roman prelate judged, quoting Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, that it is still time “to sow rather than to harvest.” “I assure you,” he confided to Chinese priests  “that the Holy See is aware of your complex and difficult situation.” “To confront the ecclesial and sociopolitical situation in which you presently live, and to keep on the path of reconciliation and dialog,” he affirmed, “it is urgent that each of you draw light and strength to the sources of priestly spirituality, which are love for God and unconditional following of Christ.” And he gave them the Holy Cure of Ars as an example.
The Secretary of State of the Holy See also advised Chinese priests to organize “special meetings to which Catholics may invite their kinfolk and non-Catholic friends so that these latter may get a better knowledge of the Catholic Church and of the Christian faith.” He also encouraged them to “distribute Catholic leaflets to non-Catholics.”
According to the news agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris, Church in Asia, its recipients are studying Cardinal Bertone’s letter carefully. The high-ranking prelate insisted on the importance, for the Catholic Church in China, of reconciliation within the Catholic community divided into an “underground” Church and a “patriotic” Church, officially recognized by the Communist government.
In the Province of Fujian, Fr. John Baptist is an “underground” priest of the diocese of Mindong. He said he especially appreciated the concern Cardinal Bertone showed for Chinese priests. Nowadays, the clergy and well as the laity are much imbued with the world in which they live, “a very secularized world”; so the emphasis on the necessity of strengthening the spiritual formation is most welcome. The priest states that a great part of the Chinese clergy received a light, or even incomplete, intellectual and spiritual formation. A bishop in his forties, when asked by the Italian Catholic Agency AsiaNews, also stressed the consequences of this lack of formation: “Some priests are always engrossed in their computers and the Internet; and fail in their mission to bring spiritual support to the laity. As for us, young bishops, we feel the need of a complementary formation, but we do not always know where to find it.”
According to Fr. Chen Xiaofen, dean of studies in the major seminary of Shijiazhuang, in Hebei, Cardinal Bertone’s letter brings support to all the initiatives aiming at reinforcing the spiritual formation in the Church. “It is not because the number of vocations is dwindling in China that the criteria which govern the recruitment of seminarians should be lowered.” “The discernment of vocations is crucial,” he insists, “ if we do not want that, on the spiritual level, a training badly adapted to the seminary lead to the ordinations of priests who will not ask according to the demands of the ministry with which they have been vested.”
Though the Holy See gave no indications as to the reasons for the publication of this letter, we may think that it is the fruit of the labor of the Commission for the Catholic Church in China, which met from March 30 to April 1 last in Rome, to study “issues of major importance for the live of the Church in China.”

(DICI n° 206 -12 – Sources: EDA/Radio Vatican/Apic/AsiaNews/UcaNews)