Saturday, June 30, 2007

Letter of Pope to Chinese Catholics

It's up! (Along with a note of explanation.)
Some extracts I found interesting:
Benedict on the relationship between Church and State (In China and elsewhere)
As far as relations between the political community and the Church in China are concerned, it is worth calling to mind the enlightening teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which states: ‘‘The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor is she tied to any political system. She is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person''. And the Council continues: ‘‘The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals, though under different titles. Their service will be more efficient and beneficial to all if both institutions develop better cooperation according to the circumstances of place and time''.13
Likewise, therefore, the Catholic Church which is in China does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State; rather, her mission is to proclaim Christ to men and women, as the Saviour of the world, basing herself – in carrying out her proper apostolate – on the power of God. As I recalled in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, ‘‘The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply''.
In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church. The civil authorities are well aware that the Church in her teaching invites the faithful to be good citizens, respectful and active contributors to the common good in their country, but it is likewise clear that she asks the State to guarantee to those same Catholic citizens the full exercise of their faith, with respect for authentic religious freedom.
A lesson from the history of the early Church
In this regard, last year, while speaking of the nascent Church, I had occasion to recall that ‘‘from the start the community of the disciples has known not only the joy of the Holy Spirit, the grace of truth and love, but also trials that are constituted above all by disagreements about the truths of faith, with the consequent wounds to communion. Just as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will continue to the end (cf. 1 Jn 1:1ff.), so also, from the start, division unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists today ... Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of the Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and brotherhood. Consequently it is a specific duty of those who believe in the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger too''.
The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic communion is not expressed without arduous efforts at reconciliation. Indeed, the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrong-doers, the forgetting of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of troubled hearts, all to be accomplished in the name of Jesus crucified and risen, can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints, born of painful or difficult experiences. These are urgent steps that must be taken if the bonds of communion between the faithful and the Pastors of the Church in China are to grow and be made visible.

Church and State
Regarding the delicate issue of the relations to be maintained with the agencies of the State, particular enlightenment can be found in the invitation of the Second Vatican Council to follow the words and modus operandi of Jesus Christ. He, indeed, ‘‘did not wish to be a political Messiah who would dominate by force but preferred to call himself the Son of Man who came to serve, and ‘to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45). He showed himself as the perfect Servant of God who ‘will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick' (Mt 12:20). He recognized civil authority and its rights when he ordered tribute to be paid to Caesar, but he gave clear warning that the greater rights of God must be respected: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21). Finally, he brought his revelation to perfection when he accomplished on the Cross the work of redemption by which he achieved salvation and true freedom for the human race. For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke out against it. His Kingdom does not establish its claims by force,28 but is established by bearing witness to and listening to the truth and it grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the Cross, draws people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32)''.
Truth and charity are the two supporting pillars of the life of the Christian community. For this reason, I have observed that ‘‘the Church of love is also the Church of truth, understood primarily as fidelity to the Gospel entrusted by the Lord Jesus to his followers ... However, if the family of God's children is to live in unity and peace, it needs someone to keep it in the truth and guide it with wise and authoritative discernment: this is what the ministry of the Apostles is required to do. And here we come to an important point. The Church is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ, from whom the capacity to love also comes ... The Apostles and their successors are therefore the custodians and authoritative witnesses of the deposit of truth consigned to the Church, and are likewise the ministers of charity. These are two aspects that go together ... Truth and love are the two faces of the same gift that comes from God and, thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded in the Church and handed down to us, to our present time!''.
A decision for Chinese Bishops?
Given this difficult situation, not a few members of the Catholic community are asking whether recognition from the civil authorities – necessary in order to function publicly – somehow compromises communion with the universal Church. I am fully aware that this problem causes painful disquiet in the hearts of Pastors and faithful. In this regard I maintain, in the first place, that the requisite and courageous safeguarding of the deposit of faith and of sacramental and hierarchical communion is not of itself opposed to dialogue with the authorities concerning those aspects of the life of the ecclesial community that fall within the civil sphere. There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed almost always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics. I understand, therefore, how in such varied conditions and circumstances it is difficult to determine the correct choice to be made. For this reason the Holy See, after restating the principles, leaves the decision to the individual Bishop who, having consulted his presbyterate, is better able to know the local situation, to weigh the concrete possibilities of choice and to evaluate the possible consequences within the diocesan community. It could be that the final decision does not obtain the consensus of all the priests and faithful. I express the hope, however, that it will be accepted, albeit with suffering, and that the unity of the diocesan community with its own Pastor will be maintained.
The Three Types of Chinese Bishop and their Canonical Status
Currently, all the Bishops of the Catholic Church in China are sons of the Chinese People. Notwithstanding many grave difficulties, the Catholic Church in China, by a particular grace of the Holy Spirit, has never been deprived of the ministry of legitimate Pastors who have preserved the apostolic succession intact. We must thank the Lord for this constant presence, not without suffering, of Bishops who have received episcopal ordination in conformity with Catholic tradition, that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained Bishops in observance of the rite of the Catholic Church.
Some of them, not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for clandestine consecration. The clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church's life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church's life. For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil effects too – insofar as these are necessary – and that all the faithful may be able to express their faith freely in the social context in which they live.
Other Pastors, however, under the pressure of particular circumstances, have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate. The Pope, considering the sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation, and taking into account the opinion of neighbouring Bishops, by virtue of his proper responsibility as universal Pastor of the Church, has granted them the full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction. This initiative of the Pope resulted from knowledge of the particular circumstances of their ordination and from his profound pastoral concern to favour the reestablishment of full communion. Unfortunately, in most cases, priests and the faithful have not been adequately informed that their Bishop has been legitimized, and this has given rise to a number of grave problems of conscience. What is more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter.
Finally, there are certain Bishops – a very small number of them – who have been ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not yet obtained, the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly ordained Bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected. Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise their ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they do so illegitimately. What great spiritual enrichment would ensue for the Church in China if, the necessary conditions having been established, these Pastors too were to enter into communion with the Successor of Peter and with the entire Catholic episcopate! Not only would their episcopal ministry be legitimized, there would also be an enrichment of their communion with the priests and the faithful who consider the Church in China part of the Catholic Church, united with the Bishop of Rome and with all the other particular Churches spread throughout the world.
In individual nations, all the legitimate Bishops constitute an Episcopal Conference, governed according to its own statutes, which by the norms of canon law must be approved by the Apostolic See. Such an Episcopal Conference expresses the fraternal communion of all the Bishops of a nation and treats the doctrinal and pastoral questions that are significant for the entire Catholic community of the country without, however, interfering in the exercise of the ordinary and immediate power of each Bishop in his own diocese. Moreover, every Episcopal Conference maintains opportune and useful contacts with the civil authorities of the place, partly in order to favour cooperation between the Church and the State, but it is obvious that an Episcopal Conference cannot be subjected to any civil authority in questions of faith and of living according to the faith (fides et mores, sacramental life), which are exclusively the competence of the Church.
In the light of the principles expounded above, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine'' Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

The Appointment of Bishops
As all of you know, one of the most delicate problems in relations between the Holy See and the authorities of your country is the question of episcopal appointments. On the one hand, it is understandable that governmental authorities are attentive to the choice of those who will carry out the important role of leading and shepherding the local Catholic communities, given the social implications which – in China as in the rest of the world – this function has in the civil sphere as well as the spiritual. On the other hand, the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special care since this touches the very heart of the life of the Church, inasmuch as the appointment of Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of the unity of the Church and of hierarchical communion. For this reason the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 1382) lays down grave sanctions both for the Bishop who freely confers episcopal ordination without an apostolic mandate and for the one who receives it: such an ordination in fact inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and constitutes a grave violation of canonical discipline.
The Pope, when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a Bishop, exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and this intervention remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is not, therefore, a question of a political authority, unduly asserting itself in the internal affairs of a State and offending against its sovereignty.
The appointment of Bishops for a particular religious community is understood, also in international documents, as a constitutive element of the full exercise of the right to religious freedom. The Holy See would desire to be completely free to appoint Bishops; therefore, considering the recent particular developments of the Church in China, I trust that an accord can be reached with the Government so as to resolve certain questions regarding the choice of candidates for the episcopate, the publication of the appointment of Bishops, and the recognition – concerning civil effects where necessary – of the new Bishops on the part of the civil authorities.
Finally, as to the choice of candidates for the episcopate, while knowing your difficulties in this regard, I would like to remind you that they should be worthy priests, respected and loved by the faithful, models of life in the faith, and that they should possess a certain experience in the pastoral ministry, so that they are equipped to address the burdensome responsibility of a Pastor of the Church.45 Whenever it proves impossible within a diocese to find suitable candidates to occupy the episcopal see, the cooperation of Bishops in neighbouring dioceses can help to identify suitable candidates.

Practicalities

In not a few situations, then, you have faced the problem of concelebration of the Eucharist. In this regard, I remind you that this presupposes, as conditions, profession of the same faith and hierarchical communion with the Pope and with the universal Church. Therefore it is licit to concelebrate with Bishops and with priests who are in communion with the Pope, even if they are recognized by the civil authorities and maintain a relationship with entities desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, provided – as was said earlier (cf. section 7 above, paragraph 8) – that this recognition and this relationship do not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of the faith and of ecclesiastical communion.
The lay faithful too, who are animated by a sincere love for Christ and for the Church, must not hesitate to participate in the Eucharist celebrated by Bishops and by priests who are in full communion with the Successor of Peter and are recognized by the civil authorities. The same applies for all the other sacraments.
Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination – as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) – is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account, where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.
Future Moves
Numerous administrative changes have taken place in the civil sphere during the last fifty years. This has also involved various ecclesiastical circumscriptions, which have been eliminated or regrouped or have been modified in their territorial configuration on the basis of the civil administrative circumscriptions. In this regard, I wish to confirm that the Holy See is prepared to address the entire question of the circumscriptions and ecclesiastical provinces in an open and constructive dialogue with the Chinese Episcopate and – where opportune and helpful – with governmental authorities.
Message to Priests
I would now like to address a special reflection and an invitation to priests – especially those ordained in recent years – who have undertaken the path of the pastoral ministry with such generosity. It seems to me that the current ecclesial and socio-political situation renders ever more urgent the need to draw light and strength from the well-springs of priestly spirituality, which are God's love, the unconditional following of Christ, passion for proclamation of the Gospel, faithfulness to the Church and generous service of neighbour. How can I fail to recall, in this regard, as an encouragement for all, the shining examples of Bishops and priests who, in the difficult years of the recent past, have testified to an unfailing love for the Church, even by the gift of their own lives for her and for Christ?
My dear priests! You who bear "the burden of the day and the scorching heat'' (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not look back (cf. Lk 9:62): think of those places where the faithful are waiting anxiously for a priest and where for many years, feeling the lack of a priest, they have not ceased to pray for one to arrive. I know that among you there are confrères who have had to deal with difficult times and situations, adopting positions that cannot always be condoned from an ecclesial point of view and who, despite everything, want to return to full communion with the Church. In the spirit of that profound reconciliation to which my venerable predecessor repeatedly invited the Church in China,49 I turn now to the Bishops who are in communion with the Successor of Peter, so that with a paternal spirit they may evaluate these questions case by case and give a just response to that desire, having recourse – if necessary – to the Apostolic See. And, as a sign of this desired reconciliation, I think that there is no gesture more significant than that of renewing as a community – on the occasion of the priestly day of Holy Thursday, as happens in the universal Church, or on another occasion that might be considered more opportune – the profession of faith, as a witness to the full communion attained, for the edification of the Holy People of God entrusted to your pastoral care, and to the praise of the Most Holy Trinity.
Furthermore, I realize that in China too, as in the rest of the Church, the need for an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is emerging. Hence the invitation, addressed to you Bishops as leaders of ecclesial communities, to think especially of the young clergy who are increasingly subject to new pastoral challenges, linked to the demands of the task of evangelizing a society as complex as present-day Chinese society. Pope John Paul II reminded us of this: ongoing formation of priests "is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individ- uals and peoples among whom priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that ‘new evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the second millennium''.
The Family
Since the future of humanity passes by way of the family, I consider it indispensable and urgent that lay people should promote family values and safeguard the needs of the family. Lay people, whose faith enables them to know God's marvellous design for the family, have an added reason to assume this concrete and demanding task: the family in fact "is the normal place where the young grow to personal and social maturity. It is also the bearer of the heritage of humanity itself, because through the family, life is passed on from generation to generation. The family occupies a very important place in Asian cultures; and, as the Synod Fathers noted, family values like filial respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, love of children and harmony are held in high esteem in all Asian cultures and religious traditions''.
The above-mentioned values form part of the relevant Chinese cultural context, but also in your land there is no lack of forces that influence the family negatively in various ways. Therefore the Church which is in China, aware that the good of society and her own good are profoundly linked to the good of the family, must have a keener and more urgent sense of her mission to proclaim to all people God's plan for marriage and the family, ensuring the full vitality of each.
Canonical Normalisation?
Considering in the first place some positive developments of the situation of the Church in China, and in the second place the increased opportunities and greater ease in communication, and finally the requests sent to Rome by various Bishops and priests, I hereby revoke all the faculties previously granted in order to address particular pastoral necessities that emerged in truly difficult times.
Let the same be applied to all directives of a pastoral nature, past and recent. The doctrinal principles that inspired them now find a new application in the directives contained herein.
Day of Prayer
Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: ‘‘First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth'' (1 Tim 2:1-4).
On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.
I'm sure that Fr Z will be analysing this letter, given his interest in the situation of the Chinese Church.

3 comments:

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬) said...

And you would be right!

o{]:¬)

Anonymous said...

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Letter of Benedict XVI to the clergy and the faithful of the People’s Republic of China has disappeared from Catholic websites which featured it after its publication. Meanwhile, in China, it is impossible to open the Internet site of the Holy See.

This was confirmed by Chinese priests and lay people, official and otherwise, who manage the various portals. Some had uploaded the test in simplified Chinese as soon as it was published, but they received a visit from government representatives who “convinced” them to remove it.

According to one priest, anonymous for security reasons, this ban “shows how true what the Pope wrote about government influence in religious affairs is”. At the same time, it “shows that the Church in China does not enjoy full religious freedom”.

And yet, in an interview prior to the publication of the letter, the vice-president of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, Liu Bainian, said that the AP “would not distribute the Letter among the faithful; it could be easily downloaded from the Internet.”

Anyhow, the papal letter reached the Chinese Catholic community: sources of AsiaNews in the country said it was sent by fax or delivered by hand, or else downloaded from the Internet thanks to decoy websites which manage to evoide the censure.

please read also: www.asianews.it

bill bannon said...

Zadok
One of the chief problems is in your first emboldened section that seems to say contradictory things to the Chinese foreign ministry...ie that the Church will not interfere with government ("the Catholic Church which is in China does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State") but later states that it has the right to "interfere" (the Chinese view of the matter) verbally: "She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper."
The foreign ministry has noted since the letter was made public that there will be no agreement with the Vatican unless it pledges non interference even if interference is in the name of religion...which interference the Chinese see precisely as rational argument since such can lead to demonstrations...that's how the Beijing demonstrations came about...at first as rational argument.
For example, as soon as Rome saw a chance, it would comment adversely on the use by Chinese of the death penalty. The Chinese if they read more than many Catholics... will notice that Pope Pius XII affirmed the death penalty in 1952 and so they would not be prone to see this issue as an immutable one of religion but a passing one of the latest Popes.
And they would not be entirely wrong. Genesis 9:6 gives the gentiles (Ham and Japheth) the command to execute for murder. Yet the Chinese execute for 60 different reasons...not one.
I see neither side as being correct and in line with Scripture in this regard. You can call it a developement if you want. I see it more as the back and forth process that we had on the torture issue with a Pope condemning such in 866...another Pope reinstalling it in 1252 and another Pope condemning it in the 19th century along with Vatican II and Splendor Veritatis condemning it but leaving in Father Brian Harrison's view a loop hole still for extracting info on which lives depend.
So are all the suspicions of the Chinese irrational? I think not...nor do I commend them for having 60 reasons to execute.
The Church wants the freedom to make rational argument and yet the Catholic blogosphere and forums do not even allow that to certain posts. So let's be a little understanding of the Chinese. They saw us historically go back and forth on the ancestral rites issue with one Pope condmening such and a modern Pope voiding that decision...the issue was the original reason for which we lost in China and have less than 1% of them as Catholics as we do also in Japan for different reasons.