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Ingratiation in Vatican-China relations is not friendship

How can the Church show gratitude over religious oppression?

Ingratiation in Vatican-China relations is not friendship
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Guangzhou
Fr Zhong Guan

May 6, 2013

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I was shocked after reading a UCAN interview with Bishop Joseph Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou.

I agree with Bishop Gan’s comment that “the Vatican doesn’t really understand the reality of the Church in China” and thus needs to have deeper understanding on the China Church so as to improve relations.

Mending China-Vatican relations and even establishing diplomatic ties, however, requires sincerity from both sides. Have we seen any sincere response from the Chinese side in the past years?

For some two decades, Vatican officials and some of those from the bridge Churches outside China have emphasized that they understand the China Church very well.

Chinese Catholics in mainland China, on the other hand, continue to complain that the Vatican does not understand them. Why?

A recent article on the China Review News website by Raymond Tai Rui-ming, former Taiwan ambassador to the Holy See, might explain the differences.

He wrote that some people think Western Christian civilization is affected by the business culture, which is easier to compromise and reconcile. Thus, East and West Germany could make concessions and reunite in a peaceful way.

The Oriental countries mostly belonging to polytheist civilizations are affected by farming culture, which are more concerned about principle and status. Good people would rather die together with the bad people than make compromises, he continued.

He cited examples of the split between North and South Vietnam, and Korea as well as mainland China and Taiwan.

Given the differences in mindset, it is not entirely wrong to ask the Vatican to “see the China Church like a Chinese.” Yet, is it also essential to ask the Chinese authorities to understand and see Catholicism merely from a religious perspective?

It is known throughout the world that the China government has turned pure religious affairs into political games. If we unilaterally request the Vatican to think like the Chinese in handling Church affairs in China, would it be regarded as a gesture of goodwill, a sign of friendliness, or an action of ingratiation?

China’s religious policy imposed on the Catholic Church is nothing but an effort to change the core element of the Church’s apostolic nature. The Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) overrides the Church but remains incompatible with regard to Church principles.

Sadly enough, how many bishops and priests are still involved in this undoctrinal organization today?

Being a vice-secretary of the bishops’ conference that is not recognized by the Vatican, could Bishop Gan speak with his conscience if he is willing and at ease to take up this post?

It is true that there are now less than 10 bishops who are not yet reconciled with the pope. For those who are Vatican-approved and staying in the CPA, they are two-timing the Vatican and the Chinese government. Would the “unregistered” community feel at ease about uniting with them?

Should the unregistered community actually now include those in the “open” community who defy the CPA, be blamed for being stubborn, remain unable to catch up with the times and not be flexible enough towards an organization that promotes an independent Church?

The 125-year-old Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Guangzhou is a historical monument. The government sponsored a huge sum of money for its renovation, arguably to say to the outside world that the country enjoys religious freedom.

To be grateful for money given by a government that persecutes the Church, this is nothing short of Stockholm syndrome.

Fr Zhong Guan is the pseudonym of a priest in mainland China

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