Fr. Ticozzi: It is a 'literary genre' to garner momentum towards the ideal future, an exhortation. Anthony Liu Bainian: It's just an opinion of John Tong. The appointment of bishops depends on "the future of China-Vatican dialogue". Underground bishops "not suitable to work with the Communist Party."
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The article that Cardinal. John Tong released last week does not affect the results achieved in the dialogue between China and the Holy See, it is "a literary genre" a hopeful expression of the direction he would like the dialogue to take, without considering the current reality. This is the opinion of Fr. Sergio Ticozzi, PIME missionary (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), collaborator of the Cardinal at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.
Fr. Ticozzi’s is one of the first comments to the long article by Card. Tong, which goes against the presentations made by the media and global news agencies, where (almost all) headlines stated that the agreement between China and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops is now a done deal. In the coming days AsiaNews will publish other comments received in writing.
Confirming the current "stalemate" on the appointment of bishops, yesterday the South China Morning Post published an interview with Anthony Liu Bainian [the columnist called him Liu Bonian], honorary president of the Patriotic Association (PA) , whose influence on the Church in China is such that in recent decades he earned the nickname of "the Lay Pope of the Chinese Church."
In a few sentences reported by the Hong Kong newspaper, Liu, begins by stating that the things described in the article are only "his [John Tong] opinion." In addition, he says that the method of appointment of bishops depends "on the future of dialogue between China and the Vatican" and not as an achieved result. He also rejects the possibility that underground bishops be recognized by the Chinese government, as it hopes Card. Tong. That refusal is motivated by their " their “political stance” made them “unfit for the [Communist] Party to work with”. The article also quotes a priest writing to the PA astonished at Card. Tong’s proposal to turn the PA into a voluntary organization interested in a commitment for the good of the Chinese society. ““It’s a one-sided wish to have the association serve as an NGO for social services. There’s no such proposal being heard on the mainland yet and no one is talking about it,” he said.
Here is what Fr. Sergio Ticozzi told AsiaNews.
One must understand the 'genre' of Cardinal Tong’s article. I mean the 'genre' of the text in question, which is common to Communist China's journalism. It is not a reference to or a report on objective facts, but the description of the reality that the writer would like to see happen; that is intended to suggest the ideal or the gradual steps of the process toward the ideal. It is therefore only an exhortation or a push towards the ideal future, without an objective assessment of its actual feasibility of new or future situation if any of the steps are accomplished.
All of this concreteness is lacking: there are only theoretical details of ecclesiology: The supreme authority of the Holy Father to appoint Bishops, the Patriotic Association seen as a charitable institution, the distinction between forgiveness of excommunication and administration of the diocese, etc. And everything is suffused with 'optimism', because the purpose is only to instill confidence in the future, to counter any pessimism about the results of dialogue (seen positively as a tool or communication channel) and, even more so, on its necessity.
In my opinion, the understanding of the 'genre' is essential to better understand the meaning of the text.
There are various discrepancies in discussions on relations between China and the Holy See. Despite the fact that there is still no public agreement, many commentators hotly discuss it as if it were common gossip. Even the bishops are often reduced to mere puppets; the lack of mutual trust between the two parties; the Taiwan issue: these are some of the problems outlined by the informed author, who calls himself "the hermit priest of the North" and is a very famous priest-blogger in China.
The Hong Kong bishop’s optimism over a change in the method of appointing bishops and the function of the Patriotic Association. But it is unclear whether it is real change or just nominal, in words. Underground bishops are patriotic and love their country, but the Party is suspicious of them. Freedom in episcopal appointments is “essential", but the bishops are not free to exercise their ministry. Patriotic bishops controlled in their visits with members of the universal Church. The "bugs" (hidden microphones) in a bishop’s office.
The Hong Kong Cardinal outlines the steps that hope to propel dialogue between China and the Holy See. Themes include the Pope's role in the appointment of bishops; A change of vision in the Patriotic Association; the possible integration of the underground bishops in the Episcopal Conference. A new article by card. John Tong, following a previous article published a few months ago on "Communion of the Church in China with the universal Church."
Card John Tong’s article on the future of Sino-Vatican dialogue continues to make waves. For one underground priest, the article encourages them to join the Patriotic Association. For an official priest, the Chinese government retains the authority to appoint bishops. Both clergymen believe that there is no difference between "full freedom" and "necessary freedom". The bishop of Shanghai stands as a bitter example.
Chinese Catholic websites did not publish the article. Many believers think that nothing will change. Card Tong “has tried not to offend the Chinese government". Whilst showing concern for the situation of the faithful, "he did not speak about the hard and demanding life of the Church". After the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, some priests expect "chaos" for the Church in China. One scholar offers his thoughts on the matter.