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Vatican II supports free China Church: groups

'Open Church' says flourishing of faith a direct result of independence inspired by the council

Participants of a symposium in Beijing marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II Participants of a symposium in Beijing marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II
  • ucanews.com reporter, Beijing
  • China
  • June 28, 2012
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Officials from government-sanctioned Church bodies have claimed that the Second Vatican Council laid the groundwork for an independent Church in China.

The claim was made during a two-day symposium that concluded today and was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), both not recognized by the Vatican, hosted the symposium at the National Seminary in Beijing.

Zhou Yongzhi, vice secretary general of the CCPA, said the spirit of Vatican II serves as the ideological basis of China’s independent and self-governed Church principle.

“Some see the independence of the China Church as breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, but this is a misinterpretation,” he wrote in a paper delivered today at the symposium.

“History has shown that if the local Church had not adapted to China’s socialist system, and hadn’t integrated into Chinese culture or upheld the independent principle, the local Church would not have today’s flourishing of faith and would not achieve inculturation and evangelization,” he said.

Wang Huaimao, another vice secretary general of the CCPA, noted that China’s independent and democratic way of running the Church was “an exploratory practice” for Vatican II.

“Under revelation of the Holy Spirit, the China Church was a decade ahead in introducing reform in the 1950s, which served as a practical demonstration and paving stone for the Vatican II’s progressive spirit,” he said.

Four illicitly ordained bishops were among the 10 prelates who attended the symposium.

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, president of the BCCCC, said in his opening address that the symposium aimed to deepen the China Church’s understanding of the spirit of Vatican II and its adaptation to the country’s conditions.

“The Church in China strives to promote its inculturated theology and carry out the noble mission of evangelistic and pastoral work,” said the bishop, who was ordained without Vatican mandate.

Local sources that attended the symposium said the atmosphere at the opening of the event was positive, but that nearly half of the attendants had left by the afternoon.

“They are just fulfilling the mission that was given to them,” said one of the sources regarding the message of the symposium.

Another source noted: “A Vatican-approved bishop avoided answering a floor question regarding self-election and self-ordination of bishops in China, as there were religious officials present.”

The source added that not much in the way of new or constructive views on Vatican II were presented, and that if there had been, “these views could have run astray from Church teaching.

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