Friday, March 01, 2013

The Chinese Church under the Pope Emeritus: A reflection

Ever since the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation broke, a lot has been said and discussed about the tensed Sino-Vatican relationships and critics say, this pope has failed in terms of China-Vatican relations.  An article by published by the UCAN evaluates the contributions of Pope Benedict XVI to the Chinese Church and opines that "the Chinese Catholics would give the pontiff substantial credit for what he has done for the Church in China.
"During his eight-year pontificate, Pope Benedict erected two Hong Kong bishops — Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and John Tong Hon — as cardinals. He also made Cardinal Fernando Filoni and Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai prefect and secretary-general of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which is responsible for missions around the world, including China.
Chinese faithful hold up signs reading "Thank you" during Pope Benedict XVI's 24 February, Sunday blessing, in St. Peter's Square

"These four figures have in-depth knowledge of the China Church gained through teaching experience in mainland seminaries and research on Church life in the Communist country. Additionally, in 2007, Pope Benedict established a commission, comprising experts and missionaries, to deal with important issues concerning the China Church. In June that same year, Pope Benedict wrote a pastoral letter to Chinese Catholics. It was the only letter he addressed to Catholics of a specific country. In it, he created a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.
Cardinal John Tong Hon (L), Archbishop of Hong Kong receives the biretta cap from Pope Benedict XVI in Saint Peter's Basilica on February 18, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican

"The theologian pope’s letter was his response to long-standing demand of Chinese Catholics for unambiguous instructions on a number of key issues related to their faith life. He did not avoid mentioning tensions between the “open” and “unregistered” Catholic communities but pointed out their problems, as well as the position the Church holds on dialogue with the Communist government.
Bishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai from Hong Kong, receives a blessing by Pope Benedict XVI during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011.

"In a footnote, the papal document also rejected the constitution of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, stating that it is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. This government-sanctioned entity, which advocates an independent Church principle as well as governmental interference regarding bishops’ appointments, are the main sources of conflict between the two communities and with the civil authorities.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Archbishop of Hong Kong, receives the biretta cap from Pope Benedict XVI , March 24, 2006.
"The Vatican under his leadership is bravely saying “no” to the world’s largest Communist regime. When China decided to ordain unsuitable candidates as bishops once again, after its previous attempts in 2006, the Holy See first persuaded the candidates to rethink. After these efforts failed, it declared publicly for the first time in 2011 that a clergyman receiving episcopal ordination without papal mandate would incur automatic excommunication.
A member of the Diocesan Youth Group from Hong Kong, receiving Communion from the Holy Father

Though some critics may look upon his adherence to Church principles as “conservative,” we need to recognize that the nature of the Vatican's diplomacy is different from other states. It must comply with principles of faith because its ultimate goal is pastoral...

Pope Benedict XVI may have lost marks on his diplomatic relations with the communist regime. Yet his contribution to maintaining the integrity of the faith of the China Church is substantial enough to give him a place in Church history.
                                                                                                - Courtesy:

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