Vatican commission cautions Chinese Catholics against cooperating with Patriotic Association
April 26, 2012
A special papal commission on the Church in China has exhorted Chinese Catholics to resist the efforts by the government-backed Patriotic Association to control the Church.
In a statement released in English and Chinese on April 26, at the conclusion of a 3-day meeting in Rome, the commission expressed sympathy for the Chinese bishops and priests who are under pressure from the Patriotic Association. Their statement noted the “particular difficulties” of pastors who feel that they must cooperate to some degree with the regime in order to preserve their ability to preach the Gospel. Nevertheless, the commission cautioned, “evangelization cannot be achieved by sacrificing essential elements of the Catholic faith and discipline.”
The commission underlined its admiration for bishops and priests who “are detained or who are suffering unjust limitations on the performance of their mission. Admiration was expressed for the strength of their faith and for their union with the Holy Father.” Their report called upon all Catholics to pray for these persecuted clerics.
In a reference to the Patriotic Association, the papal commission denounced those who seek “to place themselves above the bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community.” Their statement encouraged Chinese Catholics to follow the instructions set forth by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 letter to the faithful of China. If the faithful observe the Pontiff’s instructions, the commission said, “the face of the Church may shine forth with clarity in the midst of the noble Chinese people.” The statement continued:
This clarity has been obfuscated by those clerics who have illegitimately received episcopal ordination and by those illegitimate bishops who have carried out acts of jurisdiction or who have administered the Sacraments. In so doing, they usurp a power which the Church has not conferred upon them. In recent days, some of them have participated in episcopal ordinations which were authorised by the Church. The behavior of these bishops, in addition to aggravating their canonical status, has disturbed the faithful and often has violated the consciences of the priests and lay faithful who were involved.
The papal commission said that during the coming Year of Faith, the Church in China should make a special effort to promote the spiritual formation of the laity. Lay Catholics, the report said,
…are called to take part in civic life and in the world of work, offering their own contribution with full responsibility: by loving life and respecting it from conception until natural death; by loving the family, promoting values which are also proper to traditional Chinese culture; by loving their country as honest citizens concerned for the common good. As an ancient Chinese sage put it, “the way of great learning consists in illustrating noble virtues, in renewing and staying close to people, and in reaching the supreme good.”
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