HONG KONG- The head of the government-sanctioned Catholic Church in China emphasized ‘patriotism’ in the midst of the widening China-Vatican rift due to the recent appointments of unapproved bishops.
The chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) Anthony Liu Bai-nian was interviewed by the state-run Xinhua news agency Tuesday, one day after the installation of a bishop at the Mindong Diocese in Eastern Fujian province without papal blessing, according to the report of a leading Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao Daily.
"China should be able to appoint and bless its own bishops as it is the only way for Catholicism to be spread in China," said Liu despite strong critics from the Vatican. He claimed that the development of Catholicism in China in the last two decades has exceeded that of the last 300 years and the key reason is the independency of appointment and blessings of bishops from the Vatican, Ming Pao reported.
Liu later stressed on "patriotism," one of the key requirements that would define an official church. "The new bishop of China must be patriotic and have sincere faith; otherwise the Church of China will be weakened…if the bishop challenges the social system of China, it will ruin the future of the Church," he stated.
"The China Church must never become a colonized or half-colonized church, and it should never be served as a tool for [promoting] foreign political agenda," Liu continued, as quoted by Ming Pao. He added that the key function of CPCA is to protect the Chinese Church from being used and to the gain trust of Chinese people.
After coming to power in 1949, the Communists set up CPCA outside the Vatican's authority, forcing Catholics to divide their loyalties. While some of China's estimated 10 million to 14 million Catholics shun the state-approved churches and others dislike the "underground" ones, most Catholics and clergy circulate between both worlds.
During the diplomatic dialogue between the Vatican and China, both Liu and Ye Xiaowen- director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China- have stated that appointment of bishops is one of the two pre-conditions for the two parties to recover the ties.
The Vatican has blasted China over its decision to ordain bishops and reports Beijing had pressured Chinese bishops to take part in the ceremonies. A spokesman for the Holy See accused China of violating religious freedom.
According to Xinhua news agency, the official figure for the total number of Chinese Catholics in China is around 5 millions compared to 2.7 millions in 1958. At that time, only 15 out of 137 dioceses have their own bishops.