WE REMEMBER ABOUT THE CHURCH IN CHINA
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Fr. Bernardo Cervellera from the Papal Institute of Foreign Mission - a director of the informative agency AsiaNews
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: What is a situation in China, which started to be governed by Xi Jinping?
FR. BERNARDO VERVELLERA: - In relation to the changes on the top of the authority, many people, including the Catholics hoped that new leaders would make positive changes in China. Despite the dynamic economic development - although it is not as quick as it was in the previous years - this country is characterized by big contradictions and social injustice. The monopoly of one party (the communist one), a policy of 'one child', insufficient protection of employees - should be the first challenges for new commanders. Besides, in the last months, Xi Jinping often expressed his opinion against the corruption among the members of the party, which is dangerous for the survival of the communist authority. He also called for complying with the constitution and law, because nobody - even a member of the party - should not be beyond the law. Therefore people deceived themselves that when Xi Jinping had a complete authority, he would 'do the order' and start 'a period of reforms', including the political ones. That is true, that in the period preceding his election, Xi Jinping had seemed interested the proposals of reforms suggested by a group of intellectualists - but the problem is the fact that in no way do they assume a restriction of the monopoly on the authority of the communist party, and many observers of the Chinese political scene notice the source of their own corruption and social tensions, just in it. Besides, the fight against the corruption, reforms (mainly the economic ones), calling for restraint - all this is aimed at strengthening this monopoly by eliminating discontent among people struggling with injustice, poverty and inflation. The deadlock concerning political monopoly of the communist party can be a reason for blocking all other reforms and therefore - like so far - nothing has changed in China, also in the area of the religious freedom.
- Throughout tens of years the Chinese communist regime had persecuted all religions, including Christianity. However, in the recent times, he has changed his tactics - instead of an open fight, he chose a method of a control from inside. In this purpose, the communists established the so-called a patriotic Church, which consists of about 6 million believers, and is completely controlled by the authority. Whereas 10 million Catholics faithful to the Pope, who do not agree on an unlawful control over the Church by the state, are acting in an illegal 'underground' Church. How is the communist regime controlling the 'patriotic' Church and what are the methods of the fight against the 'underground' Church?
- - The State control over the Church - both the official one and unofficial one -is very rigorous. The authorities are forcing bishops, priests, monks and nuns to join the so-called a Patriotic Association, a creation of the communist party, so that they could fulfill their normal pastoral activity. Besides they apply a policy of rewarding and punishing, in order to encourage everyone to cooperate on the one hand, and on the other hand - to punish for contestations. All bishops ordained illegally last year were appointed members of the Group of People's Representatives (the supreme authority in China - see W. R.), whereas those who, according to the indications of Benedict XVI, included in his Letter to the Catholic Church in the Chinese People's Republic of the year 2007, do not agree on a control from the Patriotic Association, are first intimidated and next imprisoned.
- As far as the unofficial Church is concerned, it is illegal only in the eyes of the authority in Beijing. Bishops and 'unofficial' priests are often subjected to controls and kept or imprisoned illegally, although in some regions of the country, they have a small margin of freedom.
- It should be mentioned that two bishops of the 'underground' Church - bishop Giacomo Su Zhimin and bishop Cosma Si Enxiang have been in the hands of police for years, and tens of priests are sentenced to compulsory works.
- - In the Letter to the Church in China in 2007, Benedict XVI wrote: 'Beloved Pastors and all believers, the day of 24 May, which is a liturgical reminiscence of the Blessed Mary the Virgin and Helper of Believers, worshipped with such a great religiousness in the Marian sanctuary in Sheshan in Szanghaj, could become an occasion for the Catholics all over the world in the future, in order to unite together in a prayer with the Church, which is in China'. Encouraged by the appeal of the Pope, every year on 24 May, the Catholics pray for their Chinese co-brothers. And what should we particularly ask for in our prayers for the Church in China?
- - First of all, we should pray for freedom, because, despite some positive signals, the Church in China remains 'at the target' of the authority. The government in Beijing did not respond to particular gestures of opening and proposals of a dialogue, resorting to a provocation and more control. Apart from the above-mentioned bishops, the bishop of SzanghajTaddeo Ma Daqina should be mentioned, who is in a domestic custody, for his refusal to belong to the Patriotic Association. Recently he has been kept in a seminary in Sheshan, near the sanctuary. However, in order not to allow for his meeting with believers during a season of pilgrimages to Our Lady starting in May, he was taken to a different place. So, we should pray so that the authorities would start looking at Christianity and the society with 'new eyes', without ideological prejudices of the epoch, which has already ended.