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Benedict + CPA = Prison for Fr. Wang

Margaret Galitzin

Fr Peter Wang, a priest of the Underground Catholic Church in the Diocese of Xiwanzi, China was a free man for a few minutes. The Communist State released him on July 24, 2010, then immediately arrested him again as he left the prison where he spent the last three years.

Patriotic Association Priests, Church in China

Above, priests of the Patriotic Association
Some relatives and fellow Catholics were waiting to welcome him. He had taken only a few steps when four policemen pushed him into a car and took him off again to the Communist authorities. Originally, he had been sentenced on trumped-up allegations of organizing an illegal meeting to discuss plans for the establishing another underground parish and for using an official parish seal without government permission. The real reason, everyone knows, is that he refuses to join the Communist-run “Catholic Church,” the Chinese Patriotic Association (CPA). (1) The release and re-arrest appears to be just a psychological stratagem to coerce him to do so.

It is bad enough that a faithful priest of the underground Catholic Church is facing intense pressure from the CPA to join the Communist organization. I believe that Fr. Wang, like so many heroic priests who have suffered persecution and even death in the underground Church, would hold out against government coercion. The arrests and re-arrest only serve to confirm his resolve to remain faithful to the Holy Father and Catholic Faith. Until some years ago, the tragedy ended there.

But now there is a new, appalling tool of compulsion that has been added to the picture. Today he is being pressured by the Vicar of Christ to make concessions to the Patriotic Association. I am not certain he will hold out against that kind of pressure.

Three years ago, Benedict XVI sent a Letter to the Chinese Catholics urging reconciliation. The ones being urged to reconcile were not, however, the members of the above-ground CPA, who enjoy the full favor of the Communist government, which officially and in practice heads it. No, it was the members of the persecuted underground Catholic Church, faithful to our Holy Faith and the Pontiff, who were being urged to get “reconciled ” with the Patriotic Association, and through it, with Communism.

Many Catholics simply could not believe the Pope was asking for such a concession to Communism. So the Vatican issued another document, a Letter of Clarification, stating that it is exactly such submission to Communism that Rome is urging. Since then, many in the underground Church – pressured by the Vatican and the Chinese Communist government – have joined the Patriotic Association. For example, Bishop Francis An Shuxin, who had long resisted force by the Communist government to join the CPA, succumbed under Vatican pressures. He admits being “torn” about making the decision, “I refused to join the CPA at first after I was released in 2006,” he said. “I changed my mind after reading the Pope’s letter.” (2) In that Letter, Benedict XVI told underground bishops to join the State agencies for the sake of "unity.”

This has raised confusion in the ranks of China’s underground Catholic Church. But little by little what was almost inevitable is taking place: The underground communities are joining the government-sanctioned churches. A merger is taking place.

Fr Zhang Liang of the Chinese Patriotic Association

CPA priest Zhang displays a papal approval of his position
A good example is Rev. Zhang Liang of Tianjin, a member of the CPA who makes overtures to underground Catholics by showing them a framed certificate from Pope Benedict XVI, which he displays to justify his position. “The Pope approves me, so you should accept me,” is what he insinuates. What he tells the press is this, “Pope Benedict issued a papal letter, and now we (the underground Church and the Communist-run church) in Tianjin have reconciled.” (3)

It was, in fact, the underground Bishop of Tianjin, Stephen Li Side, who urged his flock to worship in state-sanctioned churches. After the papal letter, resistance seemed futile. For him and many others, the papal letter was the “turning point.”

This policy of ‘union’ received another strong spur forward this month from a letter to Chinese Bishops and priests bearing the signatures of Cardinal Ivan Dias and Archbishop Robert Sarah, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The letter is another Vatican support for the submission of underground Catholics to the CPA.

The text stresses the “duty of union” with all the members of the “ecclesial community.” It is this lack of unity – not Communism or unorthodox teaching – that is the “greatest danger” to the Church. This new Vatican letter concludes: “Let us praise the Lord for your efforts, accomplished and ongoing, for unity within the Church, in faithful response to the indications given by the Holy Father in the Letter he addressed to you on 27 May 2007, and for the results already obtained. May God bless your initiatives so that unity of ministers among themselves and between them and their flock may be ever stronger in Christ and in His Church ‘ad majorem Dei gloriam.’” (4)

So, now to compromise with Communism adds to the greater glory of God…

The Xiwanzi underground Catholic Diocese to which Fr. Wang belongs has 15,000 faithful, who to date have continued to resist ‘reconciliation.’ For the past few years local police, incited by the CPA, have carried out a strong campaign of intimidation against its faithful priests and Bishops.

I can’t help but wonder how long Fr. Wang – and others like him – will hold out when it is the Vatican and Pope himself who are urging the priests and Bishops to compromise with Communism. Surely they need our prayers.
1. “Xiwanzi underground priest arrested again after three years in prison” Asia News online, July 7, 2010
2. Marian Horvat, Apostasies in the Underground Church Caused by Papal Letter
3. Louisa Lim, Chinas’s Divided Catholics Seek Reconciliation, NPR online
4. Letter from Cardinal Dias to Chinese Bishops and Priests, July 29, 2010


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Posted August 9, 2010

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