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Vatican message to China seeks to embolden fearful bishops

Catholic World News - April 15, 2011

The message released this week by the Vatican's special commission on China is an attempt to strike a delicate balance, writes Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the AsiaNews service. The Vatican wants to encourage Chinese bishops to resist pressure from the government--without putting undue pressure on the bishops of the "official" Church, who are already too fearful.

The message, Father Cervellera says, shows clearly that the Vatican's top priority is maintaining "the the unity of the Church in China, a Church that three years after the Pope's Letter (2007) which called for reconciliation, is more divided than ever."

The Vatican recognizes the "fragility" of many bishops recognized by the government, the AsiaNews director reports. Consequently the commission's message does not spell out the actions that should be taken. While leaders of the "underground" Church urge their "official" colleagues to break away from the Catholic Patriotic Association, for instance, the Vatican commission does not demand such a break. Instead, the statement re-affirms the general principle: that deference to the Patriotic Association is incompatible with Catholic teaching.

Similarly, Father Cervellera notes, the Vatican statement confirms that a bishop who participates in an illicit episcopal ordination can incur the penalty of automatic excommunication. But then the report provides an "escape clause," adding that those who were compelled to participate are not subject to that penalty.

Above all else, the Vatican wants to promote unity between the "official" and "underground" Catholic communities--recognizing that their ties have been severely strained.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 15, 2011 9:05 PM ET USA

    Got it..."The devil made me do it" is the "escape clause." In this case it is the threat of being sent to a re-education camp or kept incommunicado for months, etc. Why not ask those who are swept up periodically and sent to these places? Wait, these are the priests, bishops and laity that have remained loyal to Rome hoping that Rome will bear witness to their plight.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Apr. 15, 2011 7:01 PM ET USA

    Wait a minute. If one is "compelled" to participate in a illicit ordination, isn't that the same as renouncing Christ's church? That is not the stuff martyrs are made of. How many unsung Christians have gone to their deaths upholding their faith? They didn't ask for a free pass from Rome.

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