7/14/11 China (AsiaNews) – Only hours after the illegitimate ordination of Fr Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop (excommunicated) of Shantou (see photo), which saw the – forced – participation of eight bishops in communion with the Pope, the director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, told reporters that the Vatican is closely following this event, “with sorrow and concern.”
“The position and feelings of the Holy See and the Pope – said Father Lombardi – have already been recently expressed in previous circumstances,” and arise from the fact that it is “an act which is contrary to the unity of the universal Church “.
The pope’s “pain and concern,” were evident in the words he expressed at the end of the audience on May 18 last, when he called on Christians worldwide to pray for “our brother bishops” who “suffer and are under pressure in the exercise of their Episcopal ministry. ” “I ask Mary – the pontiff had added – to enlighten those who are in doubt, to call back the straying, to console the afflicted, to strengthen those who are ensnared by the allure of opportunism”.
Since last November, China has decided to proceed with the election and ordination of bishops without waiting for papal mandate: Fr. Guo Jincai Chengde (November 2010), Fr. Paul Lei Shiyin for Leshan (June 29, 2011), Today, Fr. Joseph Huang Bingzhang for Shantou; several others for the future.
The ordinations of bishops without a mandate from the Holy See mean automatic excommunication for the candidate and the ordaining bishop. Many of these – like today – were forced to participate in the function, so it is possible that they are not excommunicated. But at least a dozen of them are in a situation of causing scandal which divides the Chinese community.
The Pope’s “pain and concern,” is due to the fact that through these moves to dominate the Church in China, the patient work of mending bonds between the underground and official Church that John Paul II and Benedict XVI both attempted, is unravelling. A divided church is slow to evangelization and moreover, it fails to guarantee its right and space for religious freedom from the Chinese Communist Party which, in theory, the same Chinese constitution allows.
It must be said that faced with the absolutist pretensions of the Chinese government many of the faithful and bishops have become more daring: websites publish Vatican documents, even those critical of Beijing, an increasing number of bishops are saying no to the illicit ordinations because of their faith and relationship with the pontiff.
The “pain and concern” is also for the lives of these bishops. Because of the Shantou ordination, Mgr. Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning has not been able to leave his diocese, helped by all the priests who were with him to praying continuously for days, to prevent their bishop being kidnapped. Another pastor, Mgr. Cai Bingrui Xiamen managed to hide. But he is now wanted by the government authorities. Last December, another bishop, Mgr. Li Lianghui of Cangzhou (Hebei), went into hiding in order not to have to participate in another gesture against the Pope (the Assembly of Representatives of Chinese Catholics). The police hunted for him for days like a “criminal” and after finding him, forced him to three months of isolation and brainwashing to convince him of the Party’s “good intentions” towards the Church. It is possible that Mgr. Pei and Mgr. Cai have been subjected to isolation and political sessions, to tear them from their ministry and destroy them from a psychological point of view.
With all of this, we must say that those sharing the Pope’s “pain and concern,” are all too few.
And first of all, they are too few in the Church. The World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, commissioned and implored by Pope Benedict XVI with the appeal of last May 18, found few dioceses ready to pray for the Church in China, its persecuted and “opportunistic” bishops.
It is not just a case of simple greed, of interest in the Chinese market, it is a matter of short-sightedness in not seeing that attacks on religious freedom, sooner or later, become attacks on all freedoms. The Chinese workers, enslaved and under paid, the farmers cheated of their land, the children and disabled people forced to work in brick factories, in preference to adults because “more docile”, know this all too well. But even economic freedom is beginning to choke: by now there is not even one entrepreneur left who, having invested in China, was sooner or later robbed of his patents, or forced to pay bribes of up to 25 per cent of his turnover to be able to set foot on the Chinese El Dorado.
There is also short-sightedness in the Chinese leadership who instead of responding to the lack of political reform and respect for human rights with the change, prefers oppression and a police state and thus prepares the ground for an increasingly explosive social conflict. The 180 thousand riots that break out in the country every year are just a drop in the ocean of what might happen if China and the world continue to pat each others backs to exploit the Chinese people and together suffocate their human and religious rights.