In the South China Morning Post there have been articles reacting to recent Sino-Vatican issues.
On 1 July in the SCMP we find that Liu Bainian , deputy chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said he had not read the Pope’s letter but hoped it will help normalize relations between Beijing and the Vatican. On the other hand, the Holy See had sent a courtesy copies of the Letter days in advance.
Liu said different dioceses could decide if they wanted to announce the Pope’s letter in their Sunday Masses. In the Cathedral at Beijing, which Mr Liu attended, the priest did not mention the letter. Liu did not challenge the Pope’s authority to appoint bishops repeated that Beijing appoints its own bishops because of the absence of ties with the Vatican. The state-controlled media ignored the Pope’s Letter. Instead it reported an official statement by the Foreign Ministry urging the Holy See not to create new obstacles.
Apparently the Pope’s Letter is not easy to access on the internet on the mainland. Asianews reports that disappeared from Catholic websites and in China it is impossible to open the site of the Holy See. Chinese priests and lay people who manage the portals had uploaded the text in simplified Chinese as soon as it was published. They received a visit from government representatives who “convinced” them to remove it.
Liu Bainian, told the AP the Patriotic Association “would not distribute the Letter among the faithful; it could be easily downloaded from the Internet.”
The papal letter is getting through by fax or hand delivery or through decoy websites eluding government censorship. Part of the problem might also come from slow download speeds and inadequate browsers.
On 2 July in an editorial the SCMP says about the Pope’s new Letter to Chinese Catholics,
"The letter does nothing to bridge the gulf over the Vatican’s insistence on the Pope’s prerogative to appoint bishops. But its conciliatory tone and gestures symbolic of wiping the slate clean break new ground. Hopefully it will help answer the Pope’s prayers for more productive dialogue. The foreign ministry has reacted by reiterating Beijing’s well-established position on Sino-Vatican relations. A leader of the official church on the mainland has said the Pope’s letter is well intentioned. It will now be interesting to see whether Beijing responds with any action.
The Vatican’s scrapping of a regulation that discouraged members of the underground church loyal to the Pope from contact with clergy of the officially approved church is unprecedented. But it recognises the reality that the two have been moving closer together. The Pope’s call for those who have suffered for refusing to join the official church to forgive and reconcile for the sake of unity should add momentum. Forgiveness and reconciliation, however, will test the charity of those who suffered the most from past repression.
It is to be hoped that Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is right when he says the letter is a common starting point for dialogue. The sticking point remains the Vatican’s insistence that the Pope’s right to appoint bishops is fundamental to religious freedom and Beijing’s view that this is tantamount to meddling in domestic affairs. In expressing trust that an agreement can be reached, the Vatican has in mind the arrangement in communist Vietnam, where it proposes a few names and the government chooses. Resolution of the dispute would be a victory for religious freedom on the mainland. It would do China’s image no harm either."
I am sure that China wants a better image, given their dream of a successful Olympics.
In the meantime, the 10th anniversary of the hand over of Hong Kong arrived.
Two days after the release of Pope Benedict’s Letter, Card. Zen marched with tens of thousands of demonstrators in a pro-democracy rally. Many of the freedoms promised by the mainland to Hong have not been fulfilled. Card. Zen has been a major figure in upholding Hong Kong’s rights.
Cardinal Zen made some strong points about what had been promised and what has been delivered.
Yes, these were 10 not very ordinary years. Some may think that I am referring to the financial crisis or to SARS epidemic; no, other events coming from within, man made disasters were much more damaging:
- the final appeal court’s verdict granting the Right of Abode to children of Hong Kong residents born on mainland was overturned by a reinterpretation of the Basic Law which disregarded the lawful procedure laid down in the Law. Hong Kong people choose to believe in the inverted figure of 1,675,000 persons who would soon invade our city.
- children without identity card were barred from attending school.
- public security curtailed the right of the people to protest.
- the government attempting at suppressing many liberties through the introduction of anti-submersion law (the so called article 23).
- school sponsory bodies, long time loyal partners of the government in running education, are forced to go to the Court to defend their right of sponsoring schools as is guaranteed by the Basic Law.
- the Basic Law allows Hong Kong to consider universal suffrage for electing the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council in 2007 and 2008, but this right was denied by an reinterpretation of law and a “decision” by central government in 2004 (our paper protested in its 2/5/04 issue :
We have been ignored.
We have been insulted.
We have been deprived of our rights.
We know how to forgive.
We trust in prayers.
We are patient and will persevere.
We still believe that the vital forces of the “One Country, Two systems” principle will triumph!!)
When a misleading package of constitutional reform was defeated at the legislative council they accused us of, delaying the progress of democracy!
During the hand-over Eucharist ten years ago I said “I hope the political return to the Motherland may bring also a return to our traditional culture”. Looking back now what do we find? The traditional values of decency, justice, honesty and self-respect have given way to a new culture of toadying the powerful and oppressing the weak ones.
Some like to oppose better livelihood to democracy. That is absurd and goes against the experience of the whole world: only democracy can guarantee better living conditions for the people. In Hong Kong, what is the result of the impasse in democracy? A worsening of the gap between the rich and the poor!
St. John in his vision (Apocalypse 5:4) was before a book chained by seven seals, which no one is able to open: the mystery of history. This caused St. John to cry. But then a lamb, who was slain, came to open the book. The death and resurrection of the Lord are the only answer to all problems of history.
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with Jesus going towards Jerusalem ahead of his disciples to meet his passion and death, the fearful disciples followed Him.
Let us put down our feeling of helplessness, take courage again and carry on the march for democracy, may the Lord show us a more just and peaceful society at the end of the journey.