Independent ordination of bishops right for China
Updated: 2006-05-16 14:44
A leading Chinese Catholic has defended independent selection and ordination
of bishops as the only right path for the spreading of Gospel in China.
"The current prosperous development of the Chinese Catholic church owes
totally to China's long-term practice of selecting and ordaining its own bishops
and independently managing the churches, " said Liu Bainian, vice-president of
the China Patriotic Catholic Association, during an exclusive interview with
Xinhua on Tuesday.
the arrangement of the Christ."
A Catholic priest
celebrates mass at the South Cathedral in Beijing in this April 16,
2006 file photo. [Reuters]
China now has a total of 5 million
followers nationwide, in sharp comparison with 2.7 million in 1958, according to
statistics released by the association.
"The development of the Chinese
Catholic church in the past 20 years has greatly exceeded that of the 300 years
before," said Liu.
In the history of the Catholic church, he said, a
bishop can be selected by believers, appointed by an emperor and consecrated by
the neighboring diocese.
"The practice for the pope to install a bishop
started just about two centuries ago," he said.
In 1980, China had only
33 bishops for all its 97 dioceses, which rendered the church in a grave
situation. According to Catholic traditions, a diocese without a bishop means
there isn't a church at all.
The same year, a national congress of
Chinese Catholics decided to continue the principle of selecting and ordaining
bishops independently, which was fixed in 1958 as a dominant rule, so as to
restore and develop the church as rapidly as possible.
ordained more than 110 bishops accordingly since 1979.
Liu said of all
the 1,100 priests China had in 1980, no more than 100 are still alive.
"But as their successors, more than 1,800 young priests are now serving
at over 6,000 church areas," he said. "All of them were installed in accordance
with the principle."
To date, China has sent more than 200 priests
overseas to get better knowledge and religious training, with around 100 already
back home, he said.
"The reality has proved the bishops we have selected
and ordained are qualified," he said. "We hope this may help promote the
improvement of China-Vatican relationship."
Chinese priests should be pious
and patriotic, otherwise, "the Chinese church will suffer."
never allow the Chinese church to re-become one similar to that in the era of
semi-colonial and semi-feudal society or subject to any foreign domination," he
A Chinese Catholic church that is not patriotic will by no means be a
promising church, he said. "It will be doomed to fail if the bishops it appoints
go against China's socialist system."
"That the bishops should be
patriotic is the requirement of both the Chinese church and the Chinese people,"
"Judging from the fact that the Catholics in other countries
subject to their governments, it's reasonable for the Chinese Catholics to
cooperate with their government," he said.
"As a Catholic saying goes,
'what's Cesar's belongs to Cesar, what's the God's belongs to the God'," he
Liu also lashed out at the suggestion that China appoint bishops
after diplomatic relations are established between China and the Vatican,
"diplomatic things should not be taken as the precondition for religious
He said the Vatican and the United States negotiated for 103
years before establishing formal relations and, borrowing examples from history,
no one can tell when diplomatic relations will be established between China and
"Can we wait 50 years if China and the Vatican negotiate
that long? And if the negotiation fails, should we then stop the spreading of
"We will be sinful before the Christ if we don't spread the
Gospel," he said. "We should never wait when missionizing, that's the order from
According to Liu, it's not a bad thing at all that there
appeared some differences and even disputes between China and the Vatican.
"But before the China-Vatican relations are improved, the Chinese church
has to select and ordain its bishops independently, " he said.
to official statistics, by late April this year, 38 of China's all 97 dioceses
remain without bishops and more than 30 bishops are over 80 years old.
"Those old bishops have to rely on their assistants to carry out diocese
work due to their health," he said.
In 1958, China elected two bishops
and submitted a report to the Vatican for approval but was refused.
the report, the Chinese church made it clearly that the ordinations were for the
soul benefit of Chinese Catholics," he said.
The Vatican declined the
request and claimed it would give excommunication to those who attended the
"The Chinese church was really stunned that the Vatican
gave such a reply," he said.
In order to safeguard the interests of
Chinese Catholics, representatives of priests and followers from 23 provinces
decided to ordain the bishops by their own, a practice that is still adhered to
now in China.
Since last April, the Chinese Catholic Church has ordained
the bishops of Suzhou, Kunming, Anhui and Liaoning after informing the Vatican
via private or personal channels in advance, said Liu.
But Pope Benedict
XVI said the consecrations had challenged his authority and threatened Bishops
Ma Yinglin, from Kunming, and Liu Xinhong, from Anhui, and those who took part
in their ordinations with excommunication.
"The bishops were elected by
priests and followers according to democratic election rules after strict
qualification appraisals," said Liu.
A spokesman for the State
Administration of Religious Affairs said earlier the Vatican's criticism on
China "makes no sense."
"The Chinese government had recently informed
the Vatican of ordaining bishops in some Chinese dioceses but received no
straightforward responses from the latter," said the spokesman.
contrary, the Vatican made unfounded charges after the successful ordinations, a
move that ran against the remarks of the Vatican hoping to improve its
relationship with China," he noted, claiming that the Chinese government has
proposed to the Vatican on putting aside the differences in a practical manner.
"The Chinese government is sincere in improving ties with the Vatican
and has made unremitting efforts in this regard," he said.
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