Bishop Li (center) at a meeting in 2011
The Synod of Bishops has assured a Chinese prelate that they feel he is “spiritually present” at the current global gathering of Catholic Church leaders, even though he was not allowed to come to Rome.
Bishop Lucas Li Jingfeng of Fengxiang, in Shaanxi province, wrote a letter that was read out to the synod last week. He had presented China's church as a model of “faithfulness” and “devotion” despite the persecution it suffered in the last 50 years, and contrasted it with the “tepidness” of Catholics in Europe and in the Western world that the synod aims to invigorate.
In a reply message read out by synod secretary-general Archbishop Nikola Eterovic on Tuesday, the world's bishops told Bishop Li that “even if you and other Catholic bishops in China could not attend, we considered you as spiritually present.”
“We know that the suffering, the prayers and joy of being a Christian in China are appreciated by God and encourage all the Christians in the world,” the message added.
The fact that no bishop from mainland China was allowed to participate in the synod was bemoaned by Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong at a press conference last week. He called on the Chinese government to be as open for religions as it is now “open for business.”
Cardinal Tong said he hoped Beijing will understand that relaxing its controls on religions will bring it a “greater reputation in the world.”
“I think it’s a pity that no Chinese bishop is allowed out to attend the synod,” he told journalists at the Vatican on October 18. “We must all pray that one day they will enjoy full religious freedom.”
Cardinal Tong also said that “more dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese government is needed” to overcome the present impasse.
In past synods, such as the Special Assembly for Asia in 1998, legitimate bishops from mainland China had been invited by the Vatican but were not allowed to attend by government authorities.
Chinese bishop sends message to Synod