A news item was posted on the "Catholic Church in China,” the new website of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) about the two government-sanctioned Church bodies sending a delegation of 21 nuns to Hong Kong on August 29 for exchange and learning.
The exchange was made “at the invitation of the Catholic Institute for Religion and Society (CIRS) of the Hong Kong diocese.” Before the nuns departed, some top officials of the CCPA and BCCCC met with them for a cordial discussion, according to an August 30 report. [Editor’s note: According to the Hong Kong Catholic Directory 2011, the CIRS is an organization independent from the Hong Kong diocese.
On the same website, we also noticed that Father Luke Tsui Kam-yiu of Hong Kong diocese led a delegation of 16 CIRS members visiting the headquarters of the CCPA and BCCCC on August 9.
While Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun earlier led a group of Hong Kong Catholics in the streets to demand from Beijing religious freedom in China, Fr Tsui brought another group of Catholics to visit the headquarters where illicit episcopal ordinations were planned and decided.
The Church in Hong Kong has really confused me. The Vatican has declared excommunications on Frs Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan and Joseph Huang Bingzhang of Shantou, who received episcopal ordinations without papal mandates on June 29 and July 14 respectively.
The impacts of the two illicit ordinations did not necessarily affect the whole world. But in the Universal Church, it should be a concern among bishops, priests and faithful who are in connection with the Church in China.
The Holy See issued statements to urge all bishops involved in those ordinations to repent publicly in front of their priests and faithful.
However, Beijing diocese, under the leadership of the Vatican-approved Bishop Joseph Li Shan, is seemingly doing the opposite. After he returned from the Leshan ordination, he remained actively involved in diocesan activities, including consecrating the Marian grottos for two parishes.
According to the Beijing diocesan bi-weekly, a group of bishops who arrived in Beijing after a study tour in Harbin went to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral (South Church) to concelebrate a Mass on August 23. The liturgy was led by Bishop Li, and was concelebrated by about a dozen “bishops,” including Johan Fang Xingyao, Joseph Ma Yinglin, Vincent Zhan Silu, Joseph Guo Jincai, Joseph Huang Bingzhang and Paul Lei Shiyin. All of the clerics listed in the report except Bishop Fang, the main celebrant of Leshan and Shantou ordinations, were illicitly ordained.
Most Catholics think it was a provocative gesture against the Vatican. At the same time, a group of nuns under the banner of the CCPA and BCCCC arrived in Hong Kong for an exchange and study visit.
I could not help but remember that after the Chengde illicit ordination and the Eighth National Congress of Catholic Representatives, CCPA vice chairperson Liu Yuanlong visited Taiwan in January along with a delegation representing different religions. He invited mainland-born Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi to make a home visit. That was a second invitation after director Wang Zuo’an of the State Administration for Religious Affairs made an earlier one to the cardinal in September 2010.
But when the trip in June approached, the cardinal was the only one in the delegation who could not get a travel permit from Beijing and finally had to cancel his trip. We could not see any clear and reasonable explanation.
I mention this because in the post-Chengde and post-congress era, the Church in Taiwan willingly took up the bridge Church role between Beijing and the Holy See to accomplish this so-called “ice-breaking journey.”
Now again, in the impasse between China and the Vatican after the Leshan and Shantou ordinations, the CIRS has also served a bridge role. However, I feel that it was obviously not for ice-breaking this time but to parade positively for illicit ordinations.
The majority of Catholics in China are still silently recovering from the wounds inflicted on their hearts. They are waiting in the hope that their bishops might repent for their faith. They are bearing the pain that the actors of the CCPA and BCCCC brought to them in their “performances.”
On the other hand, some bishops who participated in the illicit ordinations continue their “performances” because they have not demonstrated obviously their repentance. And the nuns, being used as bargaining chips, started off their visit to the Church in Hong Kong with a “thanksgiving” heart.
As a priest in China, I could not help but ask: Who are holding fast to their faith? Who are saying no to illicit ordinations?
The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a priest in northern China.
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