The bishop of Hong Kong is too optimistic. The Patriotic Association is the stumbling block that controls the Church on behalf of the government. Compromise is possible, but the Church will be without commitment for justice and human rights. The underground Church is now a minority.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Card. John Tong of Hong Kong’s article on "The future of Sino-Vatican dialogue from the ecclesiological point of view" is “overly optimistic”. This is the opinion sent to AsiaNews by two Catholic lay people, who use the names of “the faithful of the light" and "Taiyang faithful ". The first, more open, believes that the government will absorb the underground bishops. But the problem remains the Patriotic Association which acts first "as the eyes and ears of the government: a control instrument of the Church". But it is possible to reach a compromise, even if the Church and the Holy See have to give up its commitment to justice and human rights.
The other is very negative. He says you cannot have the slightest religious freedom under a dictatorship: "There is no optimism and positivity in establishing diplomatic relations."
Faithful of the light
First of all, I think Card. Tong is overly optimistic. However, what he says is right. In other words: better dialogue than confrontation.
In his article on China-Vatican relations, Card. Tong talks about three key issues, but in fact there is only one major problem.
First there is the Patriotic Association problem: I remember that in an interview Msgr. Xie Tingzhe, Xinjiang diocese (Urumqi), said it is unrealistic to abolish the PA. But Card. Tong thinks it can be turned into a charity for the Church.
The PA is entirely obedient to the government. Some [local] Pas play a role of bridge between the Church and the government and work with it to retrieve the properties of the Church. But not all of the PA groups have pledged to protect the property of the Church. It all depends on its members: if a person is appointed by the government; if a person is not a believer; if a person is selfish, they do not defend the rights of the Church. They act primarily as the eyes and ears of the government, one of the Church's control tools. We have had some experience of how the PA people have harmed the rights of the Church for decades. For this, the majority of Catholics, exercising caution and prudence, cannot accept the PA.
How about a mutual understanding and cooperation between the Holy See and the government of the bishops in the future appointments? A serious problem is what to do with the seven illegitimate bishops. Card. Tong Cardinal Tong indicates that the government makes a decision to accept bishops or not from “Patriotic” and political points of view. Of course, may be the Holy See might accept all seven illegitimate bishops with stooping to compromise.
In fact, the Holy See has requested that the government recognizes more than 30 underground bishops. This step is easier than that of the Chinese government requests the Holy See recognize the seven illegitimate bishops.
Returning to dialogue and concessions, the government could first of all recognize Wei Jingyi, Xie Tingzhe, Han Zhihai, Ma Cunguo ... For many years they, to be accepted, have publicly displayed their friendship with the government. Then the government would welcome the bishops of the underground communities that do not adhere to the "principles of faith", if they express their support for the government. In this way the government will welcome them together with their priests. In this way they will receive the fruits of stability and reassure the hearts of people. Why not do it? Because some faithful of the underground community still insist with their "loyalty" is to the Holy See. They are not willing to accept the Sino-Vatican agreement if it is detrimental to their faith and if it hurts and harms their rights. From this point of view, the agreement is increasing the division of the Church in China.
However, it does not matter that there are those who insist on being "faithful" to the Holy See: they are no longer the majority of the Church in China. We must admit that the China-Vatican dialogue cannot reach a common vision and at the same time advance quickly.
In addition, the former leader of the Health Ministry accepted an invitation to attend the International Conference on Trafficking of Organs on behalf of Chinese government. We can see that both sides can come together although they have different faiths and values, they are able to meet their needs. The cost is that the Holy See give up justice and human rights to a certain extent. China clearly expressed its thanks to the Holy See and International Society for offering it a platform to raise its voice.
Notionally, we see the stalemate for Sino-Vatican relations, the reason is that the dictatorship of the government cannot tolerate the freedom and autonomous activities of non-governmental organizations. This is not a cultural conflict or a liturgical dispute. The problem itself is not in the Church. Although Holy See has repeatedly express kindness, Cardinal Tong talks about the bright future with optimistic attitude to Sino-Vatican relations. In a word, it is impossible to be peaceful coexistence since there are conflicts in essence between a rule of dictatorship and religious freedom. Looking back at the history and the reality, we can clearly see that the fruit is that the government keeps under control of religious freedom. It is not optimistic and positive to establish diplomatic relations.
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.
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.
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."
The faithful of the underground Church are frustrated by the Holy See’s “overlooking” them. There have been no underground bishops, but only apostolic administrators, for almost 20 years. In the eyes of the faithful, this decision is a kind of death sentence for their communities. "Embraces", meetings and souvenir photos with the pope for officials; no meetings or blessings for underground priests, and bishops. The question of registration to the Patriotic Association. An official bishop: "We are all puppets. We just do what they tell us to do". A double defeat for the Vatican and 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.