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China

Vatican communique gets thumbs up

Vatican message on China only a good first step

ucanews.com reporter, Macau

ucanews.com reporter, Macau

Updated: May 07, 2012 03:00 AM GMT
Vatican communique gets thumbs up
Thousands of Chinese laypeople go on pilgrimage at Shanghai

A Church observer and members of the clergy say the latest communique from the Vatican’s Commission for the Catholic Church in China – issued on April 26 -- is encouraging but there are practical problems that need to be solved. According to Sister Beatrice Leung Kit-fun, a Macau-based political professor, the Vatican has taken the correct approach in consolidating the China Church by focusing on laity formation. “While relations with the Chinese government are tense, the Vatican would be wise settling internal problems within the Church first,” she said yesterday. The commission discussed laity formation for the first time since it was established in 2007. “Many laypeople now demand more formation. This is a sign of healthy development and maturity from the Church,” she said. Given their easy access to the mainland, laypeople from the “Bridge Churches” – Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau – can play a greater role in training their compatriots, the Precious Blood sister suggested. Unlike communiques in the past, this year’s does not refer to the Chinese government. Sister Leung agreed it is “not a good time for dialogue” as Beijing is in the midst of a leadership transition scheduled for this autumn. She likened religious matter to a “skin infection which is irritating but not fatal,” thus Beijing has no capacity to deal with this relatively minor issue. Father Peter, who did not want to reveal his full name, thought the communique was “very good” in general, not just on laity formation, but also evangelization, the role of bishops and priestly vocation. However, the young priest from central China was not optimistic about the future of the China Church. “We have done a lot but yielded little,” he said, referring to what he said was the low number of baptisms over Easter across China. A survey conducted by the Study Centre of Faith in Hebei province counted 22,104 baptisms, which is a drop in the ocean when compared to the country’s population of 1.3 billion, the priest said. “The Church has invested much in hardware, but how much has it spent on evangelization?” he asked. The communique has given concrete guidelines on laity formation, “but a key problem is how to put this into practice in dioceses and parishes.” Parishioners help in evangelistic work mostly on a voluntary basis. Heavy family pressures restrict their ability to do this so the Church should resort to full-time paid catechists, Fr Peter suggested. A bishop, who did not want to reveal his identity, said the communique has offered “earnest expectation and sincere encouragement” to Chinese Catholics. “They are hoping they will grow in a spirit of charity, be nourished in the doctrine of faith, enhance their sense of belonging and spirituality, and live out a “loving life by loving the family and loving our country,” he said. “It is a reminder to us not only to uphold principles but also pay attention to the spirit and essence of evangelization, ensuring the China Church can bear witness for Jesus Christ in communion with the universal Church.” Related reports: Vatican condemns China power grab Vatican committee on China to meet

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