The 365-member National Assembly of Catholic Representatives began three days of meetings in Beijing on December 27.
The Assembly will
select leaders of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and
the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.
The CCPA is the body through which the Communist government seeks to
control Catholic religious activity.
The bishops’ conference is not
recognized by the Holy See; its members, all of whom are recognized by
the government, include bishops also recognized by the Holy See and
bishops not recognized by the Holy See.
The members of the Assembly include 59 bishops, 164 priests, 30 nuns,
and 112 lay faithful, according to UCA News.
In 2010, the Vatican
instructed Chinese bishops not to participate in the last meeting of the
Assembly, though some were compelled to do so. This year, the Holy See
has allowed bishops to take part in the gathering.
Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, an excommunicated prelate who is the
president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China,
spoke about “the independent principle,” a reference to independence
from the Holy See.
Wang Zuoan, the director of the State Administration for Religious
Affairs—which oversees the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association—took
up the same theme, telling the Assembly that the “China Catholic Church
has adhered to the path of an independent and self-governing church,
formulated theology and cultivated church personnel who love the country
and church,” according to UCA News.