Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fr. Gheddo to cloistered: a "prayer campaign " for the Church in China

A "prayer campaign" for the Church in China, "which is at the most difficult and decisive crossroads in its recent history" is the request that the PIME father Piero Gheddo and Angelo Lazzarotto have made to 530 cloistered convents in Italy.

In formulating their request, Fr Gheddo writes that the Chinese Church "today is a beautiful hope for the universal Church and especially for the mission in Asia, the continent that is home to 80-82% of the world’s non-Christians!" but that it is "divided and is in danger of falling into a schism".

A danger that Fr Lazzarotto illustrates retracing the crisis "triggered November 20, 2010 when the communist authorities decided to impose an Episcopal ordination in the city of Chengde (Hebei province) without Papal consent." 

"In the summer of 2011, the government imposed two other Episcopal ordinations, June 29 in Leshan (province Sichuan) and July 14 in Shantou (Guangdong Prov), even though they had been informed of the reasons why the Pope could not and would not give his approval. So the Holy See had to declare that the two priests who agreed to be ordained bishops did so contrary to the laws of the Church and as a result, automatically incurred excommunication. China protested. "

"Unfortunately – observes Fr Lazzarotto - the communist government does not hesitate to use bribes and even physical violence to achieve its goals. Last year it even sent the police to force several bishops to attend the Assembly in December 2010, and to perform the Episcopal ordinations. The government has created the Catholic Patriotic Association for this reason, which ends up marginalizing the bishops. This absurd use of force to impose specific religious choices, dishonors the prestige of the New China before the world. Numerous observers and scholars say there are far-left factions that are trying to take over the government apparatus: Let us not forget that preparations are underway for a major Communist Party Congress and leadership change.

As for the prospects for the Church in China, "there is need, of course, for new bishops. But the Church in China is in an emergency situation because since the closure of the seminaries, for 30 years, there have been no new ordinations. Today, the possible candidates for the episcopacy are all young men of about 35-40, and often lack experience. Thus, together with many bishops and other delegates who have tried in every possible way to refuse participation in the above mentioned events, there are those who have not been able to resist. It is difficult to know if their participation was voluntary or not because often they are chiefly concerned with ensuring the operation of facilities essential to the life of the Church, since the control over diocesan finances is often in the hands of members of the Patriotic Association. It is also common knowledge that a lot of money is flowing through the Association to a growing number of dioceses, parishes and seminaries, so those who do not cooperate with the government pay a huge financial cost. And, as always, accepting money means a loss of independence. "

In this context, "the past several attempts to find an understanding with the Communist authorities in China have failed because of the sabotage of certain forces interested in maintaining the state of conflict. But Benedict XVI, as his predecessors, never misses an opportunity to express his confidence in the Church in China, as well as his high esteem for the Chinese people and his respect for the government that guides them". And "even the Beijing authorities can not ignore the considerable prestige the Pope enjoys at an international level. Therefore, they too are open to improving relations with the Vatican."

"A constructive dialogue should be sought, in my opinion, in the practical field. The Catholic communities want to work for social peace and the common good. But it must be ensured that the Church can operate according to her traditions. In choosing candidates for the episcopate is essential that priests are suitable in terms of personal and ecclesiastical requirements. It cannot be acceptable that some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, place themselves above the bishops themselves in the leadership of the church community. As Pope Benedict XVI clearly stated. "

Reaching a valid and lasting agreement, in the opinion of Fr Lazzaretto, "requires a real miracle. We need, therefore, a crusade of prayer, knowing that 'nothing is impossible for God'. For this Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly called on Catholics worldwide to join the prayer of their brothers and sisters of the Republic of China. They have great faith in the Virgin Mary, venerated in many sanctuaries, especially in Sheshan (near Shanghai) where she is invoked as Help of Christians. In particular, the Pope recommended us to seek Mary’s intercession 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."