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Meeting raises questions over Beijing's motives
Concern at possible central government interest in ChurchParticipants make pilgrimage to Our Lady of Rosary Shrine in Fuzhou diocese after the meeting
- ucanews.com reporter, Ningde
- October 12, 2011
Organized by the Committee for Pastoral Care and Evangelization, with the backing of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops‚Äô Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), the meeting took place in Ningde, Fujian province, in late September.
The Committee for Pastoral Care and Evangelization is one of the new bodies that were formed at the National Congress of Catholic Representatives last December.
According to a report on the official website of the CCPA and BCCCC, 10 bishops, 13 priests, a nun and eight laypersons attended the event. It was addressed by deputy minister Zhu Weiqun of the United Front Work Department, who traveled from Beijing specially for the meeting.
Zhu stated repeatedly that the primary task of the Church is to hold fast to patriotism. He added that its theology should be framed within a Chinese context and that its faithful should be guided ‚Äúto walk a path compatible with China‚Äôs socialist society.‚ÄĚ
He also said the two national Church authorities must ‚Äúnot be ambiguous but be firm on the independent Church principle‚ÄĚ and should boost their political awareness.
At the same meeting, the participants agreed to publish a pastoral message, making full use of online media, which would encourage a sense of evangelism among the congregations. Father Joseph Yang Yu, spokesman for the two bodies, said he expected the final text of the message to be completed during October.
Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong, head of the committee, said he hoped ‚Äúthe message will draw responses from across the country and let the outside world know that the China Church shares responsibility for evangelization with the universal Church.‚ÄĚ
Among the 10 bishops who attended, three are not recognized by the Vatican. They include Bishop Zhan himself and the BCCCC president, ¬†Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin.
One participant, who has requested anonymity, said he ‚Äúfelt uncomfortable‚ÄĚ for Zhu and other government officials to be present at¬† the meeting, which was ‚Äúsupposed to be purely a discussion and an exchange of experiences.‚ÄĚ
However, he said he thought the meeting would have little concrete effect; the CCPA and BCCCC have only a limited influence in local Churches and in some places they are positively resisted.
He added that, in his opinion, Zhu‚Äôs presence was intended to demonstrate that Beijing was paying attention to the meeting and wanted to support Bishop Zhan at his base in Ningde. Fujian province is a stronghold of the underground Church community, in which 90 percent of Mindong diocese‚Äôs Catholics go to the underground community.
A priest-blogger, whose pen name is ‚ÄúShanren,‚ÄĚ believes Zhu‚Äôs statement shows that Beijing is still trying to control the Church, despite the official policy of separating religion from politics.
‚ÄúIt is a big insult to Christians in China, to say they do not love their country and need a patriotic association to guide them,‚ÄĚ he wrote. ‚ÄúThe China Church should bear witness only to the truth and avoid promoting pastoral and evangelistic works that take the form of political slogans.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄėOpen‚Äô Church leaders take study tour
China‚Äôs young bishops take the reins
Chinese bishops attend govt‚Äôs study session