VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See today responded to China's decision to force participation in the 8th Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, saying the convention manifested a "repressive attitude" and that China has a "persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens’ lives."
The Vatican communiqué expressed "profound sorrow" because of the Dec. 7-9 meeting, held in Beijing.
The assembly was convened to elect leaders for two organizations that direct China's national Catholic church, both without papal approval. One is the assembly of Chinese bishops; the other is the Patriotic Association, the group which approves all religious practice in the country. Catholics who do not abide by the Patriotic Association have formed the "underground" or "clandestine" Church, faithful to the Bishop of Rome.
Today's communiqué noted how participation in the Beijing assembly was "imposed on numerous bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful."
"The manner in which it was convoked and its unfolding manifest a repressive attitude with regard to the exercise of religious liberty, which it was hoped had been consigned to the past in present-day China," the Holy See statement said. "The persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens’ lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic Church does no credit to China.
"On the contrary, it seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength; of intransigent intolerance rather than of openness to freedom and to effective respect both of human dignity and of a correct distinction between the civil and religious spheres."
Responsible before God
The Holy See recalled how it had let it be known, primarily to the bishops, but also to the faithful, that they should not participate in the Beijing assembly.
"Each one of those who were present knows to what extent he or she is responsible before God and the Church," the communiqué stated. "The bishops in particular and the priests will also have to face the expectations of their respective communities, who look to their own pastor and have a right to receive from him sure guidance in the faith and in the moral life."
The Holy See affirmed its condemnation of the forced participation, calling it a "grave violation of [the participants'] human rights, particularly their freedom of religion and of conscience."
On the other hand, it expressed "deepest esteem for those who, in different ways, have borne witness to their faith with courage."
Steadfast and patient
The Church sent a word for the faithful "whose hearts are full of dismay and profound suffering, those who are wondering how it is possible that their own bishop or their own priests should have taken part in the assembly."
The Holy See encouraged them to "remain steadfast and patient in the faith; it invites them to take account of the pressures experienced by many of their pastors and to pray for them; it exhorts them to continue courageously supporting them in the face of the unjust impositions that they encounter in the exercise of their ministry."
The Holy See reiterated that neither the "so-called Episcopal Conference" nor the Patriotic Association have Church approval.
It explained: "In particular, 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. It is deeply deplorable that an illegitimate bishop has been appointed as its president."
"Furthermore, regarding the declared purpose to implement the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church, it should be remembered that this is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic.' It is therefore lamentable also that a legitimate bishop has been appointed president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association."
Not the path
The Holy See lamented that this month's assembly "rendered more difficult the path of reconciliation between Catholics of the 'clandestine communities' and those of the 'official communities.'"
It said a "deep wound" was inflicted, not only upon the Church in China but also upon the universal Church.
The Holy See called China a "great and noble nation" but said it is following the wrong path.
And it deplored that the assembly as well as a recent episcopal ordination without papal mandate "have unilaterally damaged the dialogue and the climate of trust that had been established in its relations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China."
"The Holy See, while reaffirming its own wish to dialogue honestly, feels bound to state that unacceptable and hostile acts such as those just mentioned provoke among the faithful, both in China and elsewhere, a grave loss of the trust that is necessary for overcoming the difficulties and building a correct relationship with the Church, for the sake of the common good," the communiqué stated.
The Holy See statement concluded by reiterating an appeal to prayer: "In the light of what has happened, the Holy Father’s invitation -- addressed on Dec. 1, 2010, to all the Catholics of the world to pray for the Church in China which is going through a particularly difficult time -- remains pressing."
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