The Holy See "understands and shares" the pain of Chinese Catholics over the Chengdu and Xichang episcopal ordinations in the presence of an illegitimate bishop(imposed by the police).
At the same time, while
reaffirming the "known" position of the Holy See regarding the Assembly
of Chinese Catholic Representatives ( "incompatible with Catholic
doctrine", as stated in the Letter of Benedict XVI, confirmed by Pope
Francis), the Vatican "will make its judgement on the basis of
established facts ".
This is the summary of a statement issued by the Vatican Press Office
Director today on “whether the recent episcopal ordinations in Chengdu
and Xichang" and "the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic
Representatives", which - according to AsiaNews sources - will be held December 26 to 30 at the Tian Tai Hotel Beijing.
The Chengdu (November 30) and Xichang (December 2) celebrations while
proceeding to the ordination of two bishops approved by the Holy See
and the Chinese government, saw the participation of an illegitimate
bishop, Msgr. Lei Shiyin of Leshan (Sichuan). Faced with the opposition,
criticism and attempts at obstruction of the faithful, police shielded
his participation in the celebration.
In this regard, the statement read: "The presence, in the two
above-mentioned episcopal ordinations of a bishop, whose canonical
position is still being studied by the Apostolic See as a result of his
illegitimate ordination, has created discomfort to the parties concerned
and distress among Chinese Catholics. The Holy See understands and
shares in their pain”.
A softer judgment is reserved for the Assembly of Chinese Catholic
Representatives. Throughout China –both the official and underground
community –had long called for the Holy See to pronounce itself on these
issues. The Assembly is the "sovereign body" (as stated in its
charter) which directs the life of the Catholic Church, where the
"democratic" body is led by a majority of Party members and a minority
of bishops. In his Letter to Chinese Catholics, (in 2007) Benedict XVI
called it "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."
At the last edition in 2010 (see photo), the Holy See had asked the
bishops not to participate.
In response, the government physically
forced many bishops to take part. Pope Francis has confirmed the value
of Benedict XVI’s Letter. But this time the pronouncement of the Holy
See is more nuanced. On the one hand it says that "The Holy See’s
position regarding these two types of events [Ordinations and Assembly],
which involve aspects of the doctrine and discipline of the Church, is
well known”. On the other hand, "with regard to the Ninth Assembly - it
reads - the Holy See looks forward to making its judgement based on
This is one way in which the Holy See can leave the decision on
whether to participate or not to bishops, and at the same time wait to
see if the bishops are really free in their decision.
But it also a way
to see whether the Assembly will discuss issues and ways that violate
religious freedom and Catholic doctrine. It would appear that the this
year’s theme is only a change in leadership.
In addition to freedom of
participation, it remains to be seen whether the bishops gathered in
Beijing will be free to choose whether they will participate or not in
the liturgies with illegitimate and excommunicated bishops. In this
case, the "established facts" would be countless.
The statement concludes on a note of hope: The Holy See "is certain
that all Catholics in China eagerly await positive signals, that will
help them to trust in the dialogue between the civil authorities and the
Holy See and to hope for a future of unity and harmony".