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Vatican report rues divisions within Church in China

Catholic World News - April 14, 2011

The Vatican’s special commission on the Church in China has concluded a 3-day meeting with a message descrying the pressures from the Beijing regime, acknowledging divisions within the Church, and concluding that the Holy See “strongly hopes that there will not be new wounds to ecclesial communion.”

The commission candidly notes the “general climate of disorientation and anxiety about the future” among Chinese Catholics. At the outset, the statement seeks to reassure the faithful, expressing “sorrow for the trails you are undergoing” and sending words of encouragement.

The Vatican statement, released April 14, cites the damage done by “the sad episode of the episcopal ordination in Chengde” last November, in which the regime installed a bishop without Vatican approval. The Holy See, “while having no reason to consider it invalid, does regard [this episcopal ordination] as gravely illegitimate, since it was conferred without the Papal mandate,” the statement notes. The ceremony was particularly disappointing, the Vatican says, because it too place “after a series of consensual episcopal ordinations,” which had raised hopes that the Chinese government would tacitly acknowledge the authority of the Holy See to appoint bishops.

Ordinarily, the Vatican commission reminds readers, the canonical penalty for participating in the ordination of a bishop without a proper mandate is automatic excommunication. But the statement calls attention to reports that the government forced some bishops to participate, and says that “the external pressures and constrictions could mean that excommunication is not automatically incurred.” The statement continues:

However, there remains a grave wound, perpetrated on the ecclesial body. Every Bishop involved is therefore obliged to refer to the Holy See and find the means of explaining his position to the priests and faithful, renewing his profession of fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff, to help them to overcome their interior suffering and repair the external scandal caused.

The statement goes on to say that the National Assembly of Catholic Representatives, which took place in December, was another blow to the unity of the faithful, since it was organized by a group that challenges the authority of the Holy See and thus the integrity of the universal Church. The Vatican commission cited the warning issued by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 message to the Church in China, in which he said that “the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church,” are damaging to the cause of unity.

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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Apr. 14, 2011 5:20 PM ET USA

    This is so frustrating. Why would anybody be surprised let alone people in the Holy See that a communist government does not want an independent Catholic Church? Wishful thinking, can't-we-all-get-along diplomacy is blindness of the first order in dealing with Bejing. Know your enemy. It's time to get real and not undermine the martyrs. Heed Cardinal Zen.

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