Declaration by Cardinal Etchegaray on the Church in China

Source: FSSPX News


At the Pontifical Gregorian University on October 28, Cardinal Etchegaray gave a conference on the occasion of the presentation of a book entitled “Cina e Vaticano, dallo scontro al dialogo”, “China and the Vatican, from confrontation to dialogue” (Editori Riuniti, Roma), written by Alceste Santini, journalist of the leftist Italian daily L’Unità.

The former president of the Council for Justice and Peace had no hesitation in affirming: “There is not a patriotic Church and a clandestine Church, one legal and the other dissident”, but two aspects of the same community who are trying hard to be faithful and at the same time to be patriotic”. Without making direct allusion to the recent arrests of priests and seminarians from the clandestine Church, Cardinal Etchegaray acknowledged “the misunderstandings and the faux pas” between the Vatican and the Peoples Republic of China. He hoped that the “harassments” and indeed the “persecutions” would cease.

By misunderstandings and faux pas, the cardinal could have alluded among others to the canonization, on October 1, 2000 (the anniversary of the foundation of the Peoples Republic of China), of 120 martyrs of China, victims of anti-Catholic persecutions between 1648 and 1930. Also, on January 6, 2000, 5 bishops were consecrated in Peking without the authorization of the Vatican, while John Paul II himself had gone ahead with episcopal consecrations on the feast of Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Etchegaray is someone who holds the position of trust in the private diplomatic missions of John Paul II. He went to China for the last time at the end of September and early October 2003, for a visit whose objective was to pay homage to a French missionary, Fr. Armand David, a scientist who discovered the panda in the 19th century. Cardinal Etchegaray and Fr. Armand David come from the same French Basque village, Espelette.

After passing through Peking, he went to the village Ya’an, situated in the south-west of Chengdu, capital of the province of Sichuan. He was the official guest at the celebrations of the national fete of the Peoples Republic of China on October 1. According to the agency Apic, Cardinal Etchegaray is one of the privileged artisans of the institution of bilateral relations between the Holy See and China. He won the Peace Prize 2003, awarded by the Italian Association of the friends of Raoul Follereau.

In connection with these ecumenical approaches and declarations of Cardinal Etchegaray, it should be known that , according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation,( a religious organization for the defense of human rights based in the U.S.), around a dozen Catholic priests and seminarians were arrested on October 20 in the province of Hebei in the north of China. Those arrested belonged to the underground Catholic Church, not registered with the government body which includes the Churches “approved” by the State. Since these arrests, for “illegal assemblies”, the Foundation has lost all trace of the twelve clerics.

The Foundation of Cardinal Kung, which is asking “democratic countries to protest”, recalls that the Catholic Church in the town of Shahe, also in the Hebei, was razed to the ground in June, two weeks after its construction. The Chinese Office of Foreign affairs justified its decision by referring to the absence of building permission. Although having refused to reveal the number of Churches which have suffered the same fate, the Office insists that in each case, the destruction is “justified for good reasons”.