The Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives: More smog and pollution in 2017

For the famous priest-blogger Fr. Shanren, “the Ninth Assembly has created even more confusion in the Chinese Church, just like the smog that is choking the capital and many parts of China these days.

Jan 03, 2017

BEIJING: The Ninth National Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives was held in Beijing December 27 to 29. It was a continuous invocation for the independence and autonomy of the Chinese Church (from the Holy See) affirmed by members of the Chinese Communist Party and reaffirmed in the same terms by the bishops present. Chinese social media was flooded with comments on the event. The article we publish below was written by a priest of the official community who calls himself  "A hermit priest." For Fr. Shanren ", the Ninth Assembly has created even more confusion in the Chinese Church, just like the smog that is choking the capital and many parts of China these days. The bishops were treated like "dolls" by Party members present there. The root problem is that an atheist Party wants to control, manage and correct religious experience. The priest points out, however, that some bishops would not submitted themselves to the game and refused to participate in Masses celebrated by illegitimate bishops present at the Assembly. Fr. Shanren sees this as the most beautiful "positive signal" that Pope Francis and the Holy See could expect, as expressed by the Holy See Press Office in a statement that preceded the Assembly. (Translated from Chinese by AsiaNews).

December 31, 2016: last day of the year, a day of severe smog!

December 27-29, 2016: The Chinese government held in Beijing the Ninth Assembly of Catholic Representatives, commonly known as “jiuda” or the Ninth Assembly.

December 20, 2016: The Vatican spokesman issued a Statement on Chengdu and Xichang episcopal ordinations as well as the Ninth Assembly. On the part on Ninth Assembly, the Statement emphasized that the Pope will make judgments on the basis of certain facts.

Consequently, the “certain facts” have not appeared yet. Gianni Valente of Vatican Insider interpreted it as the Pope did not explicitly prohibit the Chinese bishops to participate in or boycott the Assembly! The Pope hoped that the Chinese government would give a "positive signal". Cardinal Joseph Zen, without much hope, interpreted the "positive signal" as the Pope wanting the Chinese bishops to "boycott" the assembly. In 2016, rather strangly, [a Hong Kong based newsagency] rarely published Cardinal Zen’s articles!

What is a "boycott" of Assembly?

On July 15, 1957, the First Assembly of Catholic Representatives was convened. It was meant for 3 days, but the closing was announced on August 2. The bishops from the old China and now living in the New China were "shut off" for 18 days. Layman Liu Bainian [currently the honorary president of the Patriotic Association] who was at that meeting should clearly remember what those bishops were arguing about.

As a matter of fact, that Assembly was not "just a place to raise hands merely for approvals", but was a time to fight with utmost efforts, which should measure up the sense of “boycott” of the Assembly. Now, the Ninth Assembly was also scheduled for three days, but we only saw three days of hand-clapping, and three days of smooth completion!

Father Gan Baolu in China wrote about the year 2016, filled with “positive energy” out of his state of mind that “a heart with no smog sees a blue sky". Right after the Ninth Assembly, Father Gan quickly contacted a bishop he is familiar with to talk about his impressions.

This bishop thought that the "positive signal" somehow existed at the meeting: the tone of the Chinese leaders' speeches were much softer than before, and deliberately echoed with the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that the Vatican will continue to be "flexible and pragmatic".

More importantly, the assembly did not debate over issues as intensely as before, except for individuals, everyone was talking about religious congregations, parishes, vocations, pastoral ministries, but not the "entangled independent, autonomously-run Church" slogans. The bishop told Father Gan: “I suggest you to get a chance to study the full report and the speeches, and listen to the views and opinions of the other participants," he said. "As for the negative media reports, we do not have to get involved with a whirlpool of arguments."

Coincidentally, Father Gan quoted the impressions of two participating priests: "Chairman Yu Zhengsheng (of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) delivered an important speech to the participants of the Ninth Assembly of Catholic Representatives. The Director of State Administration for Religious Affairs Wang Zuo’en also delivered an important speech at the opening ceremony. In fact, whether Wang talked about China’s policy toward the Vatican, the Vatican’s public Statement, or China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s reply to journalists’ questions on China-Vatican issues can be regarded as concrete expressions of a mutual friendly interactions as well as fruits of sustainable dialogue. One observer commented: "The water-level is very high, but the brain did not enter the water."

I recall a scenario right after the "Eighth Assembly", Bishop Xing Wenzhi of Shanghai cried bitterly and said: Those three days were like living in hell, indeed choked with anger. And Bishop Li Liangui of Xianxian managed to “escape” from attending the assembly. Now, the three-day Ninth Assembly was over. According to the photos of the Ninth Assembly released on the Internet, all those with a zuchetto (red skullcap) had appeared to be like living in heaven, passionate and vibrant. I seriously studied the photos online, searching for the figures whom I wished not to be there. From start to finish, I could not find Bishop Li Liangui of Xianxian and Bishop Hu Xiande of Ningbo. I do not know how they managed to escape the cameras. Certainly some people said they successfully escaped the concelebration with illicit bishops. They were probably the "individual bishops" described by Father Gan. Inevitably, this is a "positive signal" that Pope Francis was hoping to see in the faith.

Master Wang pointed out: "The Ninth Assembly stresses that an adherence to the principles of independence, automony and self-administration of the Church as well as the system of Assembly of Representatives are the manifestations of self-esteem and self-confidence of the Catholic Church in China; they are the foundation and settlement of the Catholic Church in China; an adherence to democratically managed Church and a promotion of Sinicization and theological studies are related to the future of the Catholic Church in China; an adherence of talent building is always an inner driving force of a sustainable development of the Catholic Church in China. "This passage is: "intriguing, unprecedented, remarkable."I think this is a result formed by China’s stereotyped ideology of "alertness to the presence of the enemy”.

"Independence is the embodiment of self-esteem and self-confidence; self-run is the foundation of settling down on one's own life; Sinicization relates to the future of Catholic Church; talent construction is the internal driving force of sustainable development." These four sentences with “emphasis of independence, emphasis of autonomy, emphasis of China, emphasis of power“ are nothing more than a reprint of an old thinking “Human will conquer nature” in the new times. This thinking echoes the idea of an article Communists cannot believe in religion is the political discipline published in the Communist media during the days of the Ninth Assembly. Communists do not believe in religion, but administer religions with an “atheist belief” in order to control “theist” religions. This makes the sacred religious beliefs to be like “dolls”. During the Ninth Assembly, didn’t anyone of the Chinese red-hats feel in their hearts not being “played as dolls”? Father Gan thinks there was no world “without regrets”. One that can seek happiness out of regrets has entered the realm. Therefore, Brother Baoguang said Father Gan can become a president like that of Liu Bainian, always “standing on a ground of an invincible position"!

Liu Yang spoke this time with some sense of fairness: "The concept of the establishment of the Patriotic Association had big difference from the subsequent self-election and self-ordination and open confrontation with the Holy See. It cannot be generalized! Very few people are willing to study this issue calmly and in a thorough manner." I believe Layman Liu Bainian is also reluctant to touch the tender spot!

Also during the three days of the Ninth Assembly, several cases in the society deserved attention. In a murder case of Lei Yang who was killed on May 7, 2016,  after six months of hard work, the first court decided not to prosecute the five police involved. Then, Lei Yang’s wife said she was under pressures and could not bear with it anymore. Then, she had a private reconciliation with the police and agreed not to sue them. This showed the rule of law is a rule of man.

In Tianjin, an old lady set up a stall of shooting-balloon games to earn a living. She was accused of illegal possession of firearms, and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Another case of Jia Jinglong, Yang Gailan and her children ( ). On Dec. 29, Wang Wusi’s article was soon forcibly deleted: "The year 2016 passed, and these people are incompetent". Also on Dec. 29, an article “The Church in society should be influential in society” that appeared in Global Times,  It is not at all fake! The influence of the Chinese Catholic Church on social justice is absolutely blank.

Brothers of the Earth told me their criticisms of the Church: "At first I thought outside the secular world, the Church can be a bearer of justice. However, it cannot bear now, because it is enslaved. Give the responsibility of justice to the United States. After a number of years, those who remained would ask:  Who brought democracy and freedom here? People will reply Trump of the Presbyterian Church, the Americans. The Catholic Church is left with an icon of shaking hands with Nazis.”

Yi Zhongtian said: "What is China’s present phenomenon? Economically developed; spiritually emptied. I use 16 Chinese characters to sum up: It is called the strong, look around, wallet bulging, but no God." In my article Encounter on the Lord’s Day: "In today’s China, the society is without virtues, the Church is untrue, and people are worried.”

However, the good thing of faith is "God has not abandoned His people, but the source of Jesus' salvation is still flowing out, and the man who longs for the truth can see the truth, even in severe smog.”

December 31, 2016, smog

On December 23, 2016, my persistent diseases relapsed. Thank God, and thanks to the caring of our faithful, my brother priests’ visit and the doctor’s treatment. They accompanied me in the beginning of 2016. On Christmas Day, on my sick bed, thanks to Father Yu who brought along the faithful to celebrate Christmas with me. My heartfelt thanks.

I have watched the Ninth Assembly from my sickbed. I have experienced a sickening Church during my illness, it is filled with sentiments.

Pope Francis said in the year end of 2016 [See the Pope’s speech to the Roman Curia]: "Believe in the Gospel, renew it, do not destroy the Church by divisions." Believe in the Gospel, we will renew, believe in the Gospel, we will merge, not divide, believe the Gospel, we will defend the Church and undermine the Church. What is the Gospel? It is the great truth that “the Son of God is incarnated, and He is with man”!

In the Ninth National Congress, the Chinese Church lacks the spirit of believing in the Gospel . If the Ninth Assembly lacks the spirit of believing in the Gospel, and it does not know about self-renewal. Then, after 2016, what will come to the Church in China? Continue to split and destroy? In 2017, will the Chinese Church move in the way of "independence but no autonomy" farther and farther away?

On December 31, 2016, the smog has not dispersed, potentially dragging into the New Year!--Asia News

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