A nun takes care of mentally-challenged children in an orphanage in
Social workers believe advice given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to a bishop last week on Church-run charities could inspire more dioceses to become more active.
Merkel met with Bishop Joseph Gan Junqiu on February 4 while on an official visit to China. The Guangzhou bishop said after her visit that the chancellor had encouraged him to “set up more charitable organizations such as nurseries and homes for the aged to promote social harmony, freedom and equality.”
Father John Ren Dahai, secretary-general of Hebei Jinde Charities Foundation
, said: “Even a foreign chancellor recognizes the importance of Church-run social services in China I think this is affirmation to the work of our Catholic charitable organizations.”
Her words “may also prompt some diocesan leaders to look at their own situation and think about what kind of services can be launched,” Father Ren added.
“If the China Church can develop more social services, this will build a closer connection to society. Through this, the Church will learn more about the sufferings of people and society will learn more about the Church,” he noted.
Father Stephen Chen Ruixue, director of the Catholic Social Service Center in Xi’an diocese, said being a Christian and a renowned politician, Merkel’s concerns brought a positive influence.
“It helps Church workers to concentrate more on their services and strengthen their mission to serve society,” he explained.
The German Church has a long history of helping the Church in China, especially in social services.
“This is a partnership. It is not only about funds and financial resources, but also about the rationale and the ways how these services are provided,” he said.
The Shijiazhuang-based Jinde Charities and the Xi’an center are active in areas such as disaster relief, HIV/AIDS prevention, scholarships and rural development.
Others working in social services are more pessimistic.
Teresa Meng Weina, founder of Huiling
, which serves people with mental-disabilities, hoped Merkel can reflect the situation in China to the European Union (EU) following her visit.
Noting the EU announcement last year that it will stop aid to countries with rapid economic growth, such as China and India, she said: “I want to remind European leaders that China becoming a world power does not mean that its people are rich. These are two different issues.”
Even though Beijing is accepting NGO’s funding applications, it is still far from learning how to be transparent and equal, she said.
Xinzui, a volunteer worker from the “underground” community in Wenzhou diocese saw Merkel’s visit as a “friendly gesture without much actual meaning.”
“Catholic charities are much affected by the situation of the China Church, which is not truly independent and with many problems caused by controls from the government. Everyone knows these problems cannot be resolved by one single person. Thus, the meeting will not bring any changes that we want nor will it push anything forward,” she said.
The Church also has insufficient experience in management and a lack of regularized practices in social services, she observed.
“So for those looking to start something up, I think they had better wait since the unusual situation of the Church here will probably last for a long while,” she said.
According to a survey conducted by Faith Press in 2010, the China Church runs 422 different organizations, such as vocational training schools, clinics, hospitals, homes for the aged, kindergartens, orphanages as well as regional and diocesan social service centers.
More than 80 nuns are serving at about 20 public rehabilitation centers for people with leprosy.
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