Pope Writes Chinese
Catholics' Patriotic Association Controlled by Party
VATICAN CITY, 10 DEC 1999 (ZENIT) John Paul
I I has made an unprecedented
call for unity for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in a letter to
Chinese Catholics belonging to the Patriotic Association—a national
church controlled by the Communist Party, which does not accept papal
The Pope's announcement caught many people by surprise: "I
rejoiced when I learned that you intend your most precious gift on the
occasion of the Great Jubilee to be unity among yourselves and unity with
the Successor of Peter," he began.
Archbishop Riberi, the Vatican's Inter-Nuncio in China was expelled
from the country in 1951, at a time of repression of Christians by the
Communist Party. Six years later, the Chinese Catholics' Patriotic
Association was established in Shanghai, as an organism of the Communist
Party to oppose papal primacy, considered a foreign authority and,
therefore, illegitimate. In 1958 the first consecration of two
"official" bishops was effected.
At present, there are some 10 million Catholics in China. Just over
half are faithful to Rome, in spite of the persecution campaign unleashed
by the regime to oblige them to form part of the Patriotic Association.
There are 70 "official" bishops, and 60 who belong to the
Underground Church, openly faithful to Rome. However, many of the
"official" bishops adhere to the Patriotic Association because
otherwise they would be unable to act. In private, they admit their
adherence to the Pope. In fact, during Mass, all bishops, even those
working with permission from the Communist Party, pray for John Paul II.
There are about 1,000 "official" priests, and about the same
number of "Un-official" priests. Both the Church that is
faithful to Rome, as well as the Patriotic Association, each have about
2000 nuns. There are 14 official seminaries and 10 non-official.
Negotiations are underway at present between the Vatican and Beijing,
to try to reestablish diplomatic relations, which were interrupted at the
time of Archbishop Riberi. However, as a condition, Rome requires the
dissolution of the Patriotic Association. This is, perhaps, the most
difficult issue to resolve, as the Communist Party is opposed to the idea.
Many "official" Catholics, however, have declared they are
totally amenable. According to the international agency "Fides,"
even hardline bishops of the official Church in China are supporting the
Jubilee celebrations. Meeting in a Synod last October, they made concrete
proposals for the celebration of the year 2000. A few days ago, Bishop Fu
Tieshan of Beijing, who is close to the Party, pointed out the important
churches of the city as the Jubilee places where pilgrims will be able to
gain the indulgence. The official Jubilee symbol can been seen in all
Catholic Churches. What is most interesting, "Fides" explained,
is that some Chinese Catholics are planning to travel to Rome for the
Jubilee. "To date, these hopeful pilgrims have not received an answer
from the government," the agency clarified.