The majority of Chinese faithful have no interest in China-Vatican dialogue. They are not affected by the Patriotic Association. This is a mere instrument of government policy.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - "The life of the faithful is the same before and during the China-Vatican negotiations": This is the opinion of a well-known blogger priest regarding the article published last week by Card. John Tong on "The future of Sino-Vatican dialogue from the ecclesiological point of view". The blogger, whose nom de guerre is "Shanren Shenfu" (the hermit priest), notes that the faithful in China are rather indifferent to the progress of talks. He also states that the faith of Chinese Catholics is not affected by the Patriotic Association, which has no power over them. This association, he says, "is a pure and loyal executor of government orders."
The Sino-Vatican agreement seems to be reaching a conclusion. Cardinal Tong of Hong Kong Diocese wrote two articles in August of 2016 and February of 2017 about this agreement: If the Agreement of Sino-Vatican is published, would you accept it? Although many experts on the Church in China consider that the agreement has so far not been reached, it is on the way.
Anyhow, Card. Tong has written two articles as if he is preparing to announce the agreement publicly. He would like to console the underground community: You do not need to be in sharp opposition; Pope Francis’s flexible and pragmatic diplomatic policy will definitely bring true freedom for the Church in China; we should believe in the wisdom of Pope Francis.
It seems that every time Church official talk about “Sino-Vatican negotiations”, there are complaining voices. This complaint is not common in the Chinese church, that is, the vast majority of people do not pay much attention to “Sino-Vatican relations.” Voices of dissent in the Church are not common. Their faith life is the same before and after “Sino-Vatican negotiations.”
Jesus and the traditional Catholic Church remain unchanged in hearts of faithful. The Patriotic Association does not have any influence on them. The Patriotic Association seems to be influent only when the government decides it to be. Every time there is a self-election and illegitimate ordination of bishops, or the bishop of Shanghai is retired from office and dismissed from his post, then the Patriotic Association becomes useful.
According to all my experiences, the Patriotic Association unconditionally implements government orders; the Patriotic Association must be in a condition to comply with the laws of the church.
Criticism of Card. Tong’s proposal to allow the Chinese government the function to appoint bishops in some way. In the proposed agreement between China and the Holy See, the latter would only have a veto power - not conclusive - on the proposed candidates.
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.
According to the famous sociologist of religion in China, there may be "converging interests" between Beijing and the Vatican, as to lead to an agreement on the appointment of bishops. But the hopes of the Chinese Church are different. Never talk about "agreement" before an official announcement.
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."