CHINA – VATICAN
Bishop Guo, an auxiliary bishop not recognized by the government, was able to celebrate with episcopal insignia. Perhaps there was an intervention by the Vatican. Patriotic Association membership is optional.
by Peter Zhao
Mindong (AsiaNews) – Mindong’s ordinary and auxilliary bishops, Msgr. Zhan Silu and Msgr. Guo Xijin, concelebrated at the Chrism Mass today. In particular, Msgr. Guo was able to celebrate with episcopal insignia (miter and pectoral cross) even though he is not yet recognized as a bishop by the government (see photo).
A few weeks ago the faithful of Mindong (Fujian) had expressed concern that since the bishop was not recognized by the government, not wanting to join the Patriotic Association, he would have been blocked from concelebrating. Even the over 50 priests of the unofficial branch of the community participated in the concelebration commemorating the institution of the priesthood by Jesus
It is not clear what has happened but it is probable that the Vatican itself and the central government intervened to save the Sino-Vatican agreement that was thrown into crisis by the possible exclusion of Msgr. Guo.
After the signing of the agreement and the reconciliation of Pope Francis with Bishop Zhan Silu, Msgr. Guo, unofficial bishop, who was the ordinary of the diocese, agreed to take a step back and become the auxiliary bishop of Msgr. Zhan, who ascended to the role of ordinary bishop.
But the United Front and the Religious Affairs Bureau distributed a sheet to all the priests and to Msgr. Guo demanding obedience to the new bishop, but above all adherence to the principles of “independence” of the Church and to the PA.
From what we understand – given that the text of the agreement was neither published by China nor by the Holy See – this would be contrary to the principles of the agreement, in which adherence to the PA would only be optional.
Thanks to this important element, regarding non-obligatory adhesion to the PA, a path towards reconciliation between official and non-official communities seems possibile. In the last 60 years the unofficial (or “underground”) communities have never accepted to support an association that aims at the independence of the Church from the Holy See.
Immediately after the agreement, however, a campaign was unleashed in several provinces to force priests and bishops to join the PA, under penalty of exclusion from the ministry. Furthermore, to priests of the official community is reiterated that “despite” the Sino-Vatican agreement, the Church is bound to “patriotism” and above all to build an “independent” Church.