China: “The Chinese government has intensified the persecution”

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong (since April 15, 2009), took part in the Symposium sponsored by the Catholic news agency AsiaNews that was held on November 18, 2014, at the Pontifical Urbiana University in Rome. “We should not be too optimistic until the Chinese government has made a real change in its policy. I see no sign of immediate improvement in relations between China and the Holy See,” he declared on that occasion to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Born on January 13, 1932, in Yang King-pang, Diocese of Shanghai, Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun explained that “the Chinese government recently intensified the persecution. We have seen churches demolished, crosses removed from the buildings; therefore we do not have much to hope for in the immediate future. The Church is still subject to the government.”

Églises d’Asie emphasizes that the campaign entitled “Three Corrections for One Demolition”, which has been conducted since January 2014 in the Province of Zhejiang, located on the east coast of China, is not slackening. Officially this campaign, which is supposed to continue well into 2015, aims to “beautify” the province by removing the awkward aspects of buildings that have been declared illegally constructed: hundreds of Catholic churches and Protestant houses of worship have been destroyed; more than 360 crosses deemed “too large and too visible” have been removed forcibly by the local authorities.

On November 15, 2014, AsiaNews reported that an editorial published in the official newspaper of the Chinese regime says that “members of the Communist Party cannot belong to any religion.” Signed by Zhu Weiqun, head of the Party’s Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, the text explains that “if the level of morality in a society depended on its level of religiosity, then medieval Europe, which was totally under the influence of the Vatican, would necessarily have been accompanied by a golden age of humanity, and there would have been no need for a Renaissance!” It also claims that the Chinese intellectuals who demand religious liberty “have long since converted to Christianity”.

For his part, Cardinal Zen thinks that a papal visit to China would be inopportune: “If someone asks me about this subject, I will urgently recommend that he not go, because the present circumstances are not favorable.” The Chinese government does not seem to be making the slightest effort to improve the Church’s situation or relations with the Vatican, and a papal trip would probably be manipulated by Beijing, he commented. “They will not let the Pope meet the people whom he would like to meet, and they will try to force him to meet the people they want him to meet. The only result of such a visit would be to make good people suffer and to divert the Pope’s benevolence (away from the true Catholics).”

Years ago in an interview with Églises d’Asie published on May 23, 2012, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun explained the situation in these terms: “In any matter concerning the Church in China, we have to consider three entities: the Church of China itself, the Chinese government and the Holy See. Several years ago, we could show some optimism. With that optimism in mind, Pope Benedict XVI wrote his letter in 2007 [dated May 27, 2007]. This optimism was nourished by the fact that when China started its policy of openness in late 1979, among the aged bishops still in office who had been appointed illegitimately there were many who, thanks to the new opportunities to communicate with Rome, approached the Holy See to ask forgiveness and to return to communion with the Universal Church. The Holy See was very generous, while being prudent and conducting detailed investigations of those bishops. They asked the opinion of the clandestine bishops and, most often, those bishops were made legitimate with the agreement of the clandestine bishops. For those repentant bishops it must have taken courage to approach the Holy See in that way, because obviously the government had caught wind of their petition. Despite the danger, those bishops acted for the good of the Church, and the government did not sanction them....

“However, some said that there was a contradiction in the Holy See’s policy: the Pope appointed several official bishops who were at the same time members of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, an organization incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Before the Pope’s letter in 2007, it was tacitly understood that the bishops had nothing to do with that association, which is incompatible with the Catholic faith. After the Pope’s letter, matters were clarified: the Pope wrote that the bishops must not be connected with that organization. Nevertheless, nothing has changed since 2007. This is quite simply the end result of the previous years in which the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples sent messages to the Chinese bishops that were contradictory or, at the very least, encouraged them to think that some degree of compromise with Beijing was foreseeable. Today the personnel in office at the Holy See have changed, of course, but we continue to live on that heritage. Consequently, today I see less hope for the official part of the Church in China than there was five years ago, when the Pope’s letter was published. I see bishops who are less courageous than before, opportunists, as Abp. Savio Hon Tai-fai (Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People) wrote....

“As for the clandestine communities, I must say that there too the erroneous policies of the Holy See have caused much harm. The heirs of the Vatican Ostpolitik, through their constant search for compromise with the established authorities, did not assign sufficient importance to the clandestine communities; they neglected them or even considered them a nuisance. The result is, for example, the coadjutor bishop of Baoding, who was encouraged to leave the ranks of the clandestine to join the official hierarchy. After so many years in prison, he, who was considered a hero, only sowed confusion and disunity in the diocese. How sad!”

Appointed clandestine Auxiliary Bishop of Baoding (Hebei) in 1992, Bp. Francis An Shuxin was arrested in 1996 and released in 2006; he announced three years later that he was joining the Patriotic Church so as “to help the development of the diocese”, whereas the bishop who is the clandestine ordinary of Baoding, Bp. James Su Zhimin, was arrested on October 8, 1997; there has been no news of him since, and he still remains in detention.

The official Chinese daily newspaper, Huanqiu Shabao, announced on November 21 of this year that candidates for the episcopate would be chosen after an agreement is reached between the Conference of Chinese Catholic Bishops and the State Ministry for Religious Affairs, then presented to the Vatican to be consecrated. The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics declared that it hoped to receive an answer from the Vatican by the beginning of 2015. In an article dated November 24, signed by Dan Long [a pseudonym for a journalist based in Beijing], and translated into French by Églises d’Asie, the agency Ucanews recommends great caution with regard to any agreement in the near future between China and the Vatican: “The article rejects any prospect of the dissolution of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, while the Holy See considers it illegitimate that the Patriotic Associate usurps the right to nominate bishops. In citing two experts in defense of the Association’s role, Huanqiu Shibao is just resorting to a well-worn tactic that consists of depicting the actions of the Communist Party as the reflection of an opinion universally accepted in China itself.”

(Sources: apic/asianews/aed/eda – DICI no. 307 dated December 19, 2014)

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