Challenges for the Church in China

Challenges for the Church in China

It looks like the Communists in Beijing have given their response to overtures by the Vatican at improving relations. For the second time in three days, the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has ordained a bishop. The Communist Chinese government requires Christians to worship only in state-controlled associations, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which eschews any connections to the Vatican or the Pope. Many Catholics worship in illegal, underground churches, following only bishops appointed by the Pope, although the divisions are not hard and fast. Many priests and laypeople, and even bishops, are members of the patriotic association in public, and of the underground Church, in secret.

Recently, Pope Benedict had made several overtures to Beijing, including making the statement that the Vatican would end its diplomatic relations with Taiwan and moves its nunciature to Beijing. But that didn’t seem to satisfy the Communists.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong said China is destroying trust, and has put a halt to the tentative steps to dialogue that had already taken place.

In February 2003, Catholic World Report ran a series of articles from behind the Great Wall, showing the plight of Chinese Catholics firsthand and how they suffer for their faith. The articles are “The Seed takes Root”, about Bishop Jia Zhi Guo of Zhengding, Hebei, of the underground Church, who remained faithful to his apostolic mission despite heavy persecution; “The ‘House Church’”, about an underground parish that gathered secretly in Beijing; and “We Are Brothers”, about the efforts to unite underground Catholics with those who belong to the patriotic association, “Notes from the Underground”, in which Chinese Catholics tell the world about their struggle to survive, their loyalty to the Holy See, and their determination to promote the unity of the Church; and “An Open Letter to Catholics Living Overseas” from Chinese Catholics to their brothers and sisters in the West not only asking for our prayers, but also offering their prayers for the challenges we face to our faith.

Read them all for a sobering and chilling look at what it really means to live your faith under the threat of oppression and persecution.

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