Pope Benedict XVI. has deplored a restriction of religious freedom in China. Priests and faithful in the country would be hindered in the free exercise of their faith, some bishops would be subjected to prere in their ministry, Benedict said at the end of the general audience.
The Church in China needs the prayers of the whole Church in a special way at this time, the pope said. At the same time, he called on the faithful of the Asian country to be faithful to the pope and to be united with the universal church. Chinese Catholics have repeatedly expressed their will to do so, he said. "Through prayer we can achieve that the desire of Chinese Catholics to belong to the universal Church overcomes the temptation of a separate path independent of the Petrine ministry," the pope said. – The occasion for the call was the commemoration of "Mary, Help of Christians", next Tuesday, which is celebrated in a special way at the Marian shrine of Sheshan near Shanghai.
Since 1957, China’s more than ten million Catholics have been divided between an underground church persecuted by the state and the official "Patriotic Association". Christianity was suppressed during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Only after Mao Tse-tung’s death in 1976 did a rebuilding begin, but still under strict government control. In the meantime, however, most of China’s bishops also have the recognition of the Pope. New appointments since 2006 have in most cases been made in consultation with the Holy See.
China’s ‘Patriotic Association’ resents Vatican interference in bishop’s consecration
Meanwhile, China’s "Patriotic Association" again rejected Vatican interference in the election and consecration of new bishops. The press service "Eglises d "Asie" quotes the honorary president of the "Patriotic Association", Anthony Liu Bainian, as demanding that the Vatican recognize elected bishops. With eleven candidates soon to be ordained, the conflict between Beijing and the Holy See could intensify again.
Bainian, the strongman of China’s "official" church, said China’s church has cut political and economic ties with the Vatican, according to "Eglises d "Asie". Their autonomy is reflected in elections and ordinations of bishops, which are decided only in China.
Ordination of eleven candidates looms – new tensions expected
Johannes Fang Xinqyao, bishop of the "official" Catholic Church of Linyi and chairman of the Patriotic Association, most recently told the Hong Kong daily "Wen Wei Po" that eleven candidates were awaiting ordination. They have already been elected; the bishops’ conference just needs to give its approval for ordination, he said. According to observers, the ordination of the eleven candidates could lead to new tensions. According to "Eglises d "Asie", Beijing is probably planning a group consecration of candidates for whose consecration the Vatican has given its approval and of those for whom approval was refused.