Reflections on the Catholic Church in China:
Official/Unofficial, AboveGround/UnderGround, Beijing/Vatican


2007-08-02 Another really excellent  article re church in China - the best summary of recent times

2007-07-08  A must/must  read/read article for anyone wanting to understand situation of Catholic Church in China - excellent, excellent!

2007-04-12 Church needs to be more Asian/African....less Euro-centric.......not more Latin! - Cardinal Fumio of Japan

2006-12  - appointment of bishops

October 31, 2003:
Having been in Hong Kong for 16 years and now in China for 3 years, I can't help feeling the reporting of church  items re China needs more balance. Most Western  coverage of  China church items is via the U.S. based Cardinal Kung Foundation ...whose coverage of China is like the White House's coverage of Iraq....rather one-sided.>

 The China church situation is for sure very complicated....and at times insensitive Vatican policy doesn't help (e.g. canonizing China saints on Oct 1st, China's National Day). But a large part of the problem is the almost fanatical attitude of "underground" Christians, Catholic and Protestant....e.g. when Cardinal Etchegaray  visited Beijing not long ago the underground support websites were livid in their criticism of him....comparing him with Judas. 

Most of China's  10,000,000(?)  Catholics attend Mass in "official "open churches....and most of the "official" bishops have been reconciled with the Pope. Despite its occasional clumsiness, the Vatican has been trying to promote reconciliation....between "official" and "unofficial" and between itself and Beijing....but many "unofficial"/underground people want none of either...they ARE the problem, sadly,  in many respects.

Here is a sample of underground church views of the Cardinal: (from: <
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"""Now, the visit paid by Cardinal Etchegaray represented an appalling betrayal of the martyr Church by the hierarchical Church. For the ten million Catholic faithful in communion with the Pope, members of the “clandestine” Church, what a scandal! Here are the facts:

Wednesday 13 September 2000: Cardinal Etchegaray arrived in China for an eight day visit, during which he would only meet members of the schismatic “Patriotic Association”. He tells us he protested against this, but it is in vain. Given the gravity of the situation, it was necessary to create a rumpus, even if this meant getting back on his plane or, even better, going to prison! Failure to do this would be to re-enact the treason of Judas; something which will not astonish those who know how this same Roger Etchegaray has sought to rehabilitate the treacherous Apostle ever since he became Bishop of Marseilles... Indeed, the papal legate’s visit “in some way” sanctioned the arrest that took place the day after his arrival:

Thursday 14 September: two bishops and a priest were arrested in the province of Jianxi. Mgr Zeng Jingmu, who is eighty, was led away by some fifty or so agents and placed in a secret detention centre under close police guard. Ordained in 1949, before the Communists came to power, he has always refused to enter the Schismatic Church. That is why he has spent thirty years of his life in prison: from 1958 to 1976, then at the time of the Cultural Revolution from 1981 to 1989, and intermittently between 1994 and 1998, always for the purpose of “re-education through work”.

At the same time as Mgr Zeng Jingmu, were arrested Mgr Deng Hui auxiliary bishop, who has spent three of his thirty-three years in prison, and Father Liao Haiqing who has spent seventeen of his seventy years in prison.

Sunday 17 September: not far from Changle, in Fujian, seventy police officers surrounded the residence of Ye Gongfeng, an eighty-two year old parish priest. Tortured until he was coughing up blood, this heroic confessor of the faith died after seventeen hours in a coma.

At this same time, the Cardinal Kung foundation in the United States was reporting that Father Gao Yihua, forty-four, had been captured by the police as he was saying Mass at a private house, close to Changle.

In Changle 30% of the inhabitants are Christian: «We have not been able to attend Mass for two months now, so closely watched are we by the police. Our priests have gone underground, and nobody knows where they live. They move around continually. They simply have a beeper or a mobile phone whose number is only known by those closest to them. Masses are organized through a network of contacts, in the houses of Christians, for nobody would dare to enter the churches.»

For all these Catholics, stresses the special correspondent of Le Figaro, there is no question of registering for the right to pray, nor of going to pray in a “Patriotic Catholic” church, i.e. one authorized by the Communist Party. «Catholicism must depend on the Vatican!» declare these faithful Roman Catholics, ready to testify to this with their blood.

Alas! Imagine what they must have thought when they learned of the following events:

Tuesday 19 September: Cardinal Etchegaray publicly celebrated a Mass at Sheshan, in a “patriotic” church. In this sanctuary on the outskirts of Shanghai, accompanied by the “patriotic” bishop of the city, Mgr Alois Jin Luxian, the Cardinal gave a talk at the seminary. In Peking, he met the bishop who is president of the Patriotic Association, Mgr Michel Fu Tieshan, who has protested against the canonization of the martyrs of China, planned for 1 October in Rome.

Wednesday 20 September: in Peking, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is in his turn indignant at the date chosen for this canonization, the 1st October which marks the fifty-first anniversary of the coming to power of the Communist regime: «This act of the Vatican is extremely hurtful to the Chinese people and the dignity of the Chinese nation, and it will absolutely not be tolerated!»

Sunday 1 October. Pope John Paul II canonizes thirty-three missionaries as well as eighty-seven Chinese, declaring that they «give honour to the noble Chinese people», and offering them to the universal Church as «examples of courage and consistency (sic)». Numerous pilgrims were present from the countries of these missionaries: the Chapdelaines from La Rochelle in Normandy, who are related to Saint Augustus Chapdelaine; Alsatians who had come to commemorate Saint Modeste Andlauer, a Jesuit who was massacred along with the faithful who had taken refuge in the village church of Tchou-Kia-Ho in July 1900; inhabitants of the Auvergne from Lezoux, the birthplace of Mgr Gabriel Taurin Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Missions who was decapitated on 14 September 1815...

Monday 2 October: Pope John Paul II publicly requests forgiveness from China, in Saint Peter’s, before all these pilgrims, for the «possible “errors” or “limitations” of missionaries in the exercise of their ministry»!

This repetition of the “repentance” of 12 March led to the same result as John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem: in the next few days, the Chinese government launched a campaign against the martyrs. In this way they would be put to death not once but twice! As for the bishops and the priests of the “patriotic” Church, they were carefully monitored. It was forbidden to preach about the holy martyrs, even - and indeed especially - in Hong Kong, recently reattached to Communist China.

On the other hand, newspapers and Internet sites are inundated with articles and analyses, both “historical” and “scientific”, of the “crimes” of the foreign missionaries... Why take the trouble, seeing that the Pope himself has already admitted to this!"""
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So much of the above is very suspect....e.g. it's just plain rubbish and wrong to say priests in HK were forbidden to preach about the Oct 1 martyrs....just not true....a  l i e

All over China, the "official" churches, Catholic & well as other religious groups, are given great freedom. e.g. on October 18  I attended a Catholic funeral....not the slightest problem.....each day in my city of Zhaoqing there is daily Mass...not the slightest problem.>

My comparison ....admittedly not 100% situation here is like a school anywhere.....teachers are free to organize anything for long as they check with the principal/office ....but if they arrange excursions etc  without checking, the principal is understandably upset. Same in China: Christians can do what they like, so long as they do it's the secret gatherings which get the government's back up.

This is not to say they are forces in the government (as there are in Russia, and indeed as there are in every country) that would like to destroy the church, like to destroy religion, like to destroy society itself.. But here in China these forces are a decreasing influence DG.

For sure there is persecution, some of it coming from people as in the above paragraph, but most of it coming from the fact that the underground people are  breaking a law.  China has come a long way in the past 20 years....tens of thousands of churches and places of worship are open and being used.  To start  up your own unregistered place of worship in China is a bit like insisting of the right to say Mass any time you like in any hospital, school or  shopping centre in a Western country....which would get you a warning, if not a fine, the first time....and if you insisted on furtively saying Mass in the local State School without permission, you'd probably be locked up....for breaking the law.

Yesterday's CathNews from Australia (October 30)
Cardinal declares China has "one Church with two faces"

The Vatican's Cardinal Roger Etchegaray has moved to stress that the Holy See regards China's "Patriotic" Church, which is loyal to the Government, as part of the universal Church.

There is a view that the "underground" Church, which sees itself as defying the Government in order to to mantain loyalty with Rome, is the only "true" Catholic Church in China.

Cardinal Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spend ten days in China at the end of last month. In the past he has frequently served as the Pope's diplomatic envoy.

He denied the existence of a divide between the underground and Government-recognised patriotic elements of the Catholic Church.

"There is only one Church with two faces," he said. "There is not one 'patriotic' Church and one 'underground' Church, one legal and the other protesting."

Australian Oblate priest John Wotherspoon, who lives in Zhaoqing in southern China, commented to CathNews this week that Cardinal Etchegaray received a cool reception from members of the "underground" Church, who regard him as the "devil incarnate" for his attempts to foster reconciliation between the underground and patriotic "faces" of the Catholic Church in China.

Fr Wotherspoon believes that western media gives a distorted account of the Church in China because of its strong reliance on organisations such as the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which is committed to promoting the cause of elements of the underground Church that are hostile to the Government.

He described as one-sided, this week's report that police in north-east China raided a religious retreat and arrested about a dozen Catholic priests, while a church in the vicinity was demolished.

Cardinal Etchegaray acknowledged that there have been setbacks in relations between the Holy See and the Beijing regime. He expressed his hope that "harassment" and even "persecution" would come to and end.

At the same time, the cardinal acknowledged some false steps on the part of Vatican officials in their dealings with China. He was apparently referring to the canonisation of 120 Chinese martyrs on 1 October 2000 on a date observed in China as the most important national holiday.

Only one Catholic Church in China, Vatican prelate says (Catholic World News)

The Cardinal's "one Church, two faces,
two faces of the same community, which seeks to be both faithful and at the same time patriotic" is excellent....a follow up to "one country, two systems" describing HK's place in China. Please God it will open up a whole new era of reconciliation, between the two "faces" and between Rome and Being, without anyone involved losing face.

Cardinal's comments after China trip