What are people entertaining in their memory at this moment? Some may be going back to the midnight celebrations of 1st July twenty-three years ago, but others may remember demonstrations of a completely different kind (similar radically opposed reactions are taking place now at the passing of the National Security Law).
Some may remember with nostalgia the rally that took place on 1st July last year: Was it perhaps the last one in the history of Hong Kong? Was that peaceful, rational, non-violent resistance a failure? Some are asking themselves: what have we achieved with the Anti-Article 23 resistance, with the “Occupy Central” movement, and with the cooperation between “Peaceful Resistance” and “Aggressive Resistance” fighting the extradition law and police brutality?
Some say the National Security Law is here, what can we do?
What I myself have been remembering all this time, is what happened to me last year on 3rd July in Rome.
On 28th June last year a document (Bulletin No. 554) was issued by the Holy See: “Pastoral guidance for the civil registration of clergy in China” (Italian, English and Chinese).
It’s absolutely not normal that a document be issued by the Holy See without the specification of the particular Department and without the signature of the responsible authority. I questioned the then Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization, Cardinal Filoni: “Did you refuse to sign the document?” He answered: “Nobody asked me to sign.” I questioned the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “Had you ever seen the document before it was issued?” The answer was: “Now everything about China is exclusively in the hands of the Secretary of State.”
Since the document appeared to me to be very wrong, I took a flight to Rome the next day. In the morning of 30th June, I delivered a letter to Santa Marta, asking the Holy Father to be present, in one of the following days, at a dialogue between me and Cardinal Parolin, the obvious author of the document.
On the 1st of July, receiving no answer, I sent another letter with my “dubia” about the document, which I judged to be absolutely against the doctrine of the Church, because it encourages people to be part of a schismatic Church.
On 2nd July I was given the answer from the Pope: “You just talk to Parolin”. I said to the carrier of the answer: “It would be completely useless; so, please, tell the Holy Father I’m going back empty-handed”.
On 3rd July, the Holy Father invited me to supper with the presence of Parolin. I thought I was having a chance.
The supper was very simple during which I talked about the situation of Hong Kong. Parolin didn’t say a word. At the end I said, “May we talk about the document?” The answer from the Holy Father was: “I will look into the matter”. Then he showed me off to the door. That answer was the only reward of my long journey? Not exactly. During the supper I noticed in the Holy Father much affection for me, but also some embarrassment. I understood the supper was a plan of Parolin, who wanted to tell me: “The Holy Father has much affection for you, but he listens to me, not to you; and I refuse to talk with you about the ‘Pastoral Guidelines’ in His presence. That is the end of it. Go home and don’t come any more.” So, I did not come back empty-handed. I had a chance to see with my eyes that Parolin is manipulating the Holy Father.
Receiving no word from the Holy Father, when I sent my book “FOR LOVE OF MY PEOPLE, I WILL NOT KEEP SILENT” to all the Cardinals at the end of September, I enclosed a letter asking them to take that matter at heart. I received a few answers showing compassion and promising prayers. Regrettably, the new Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Re wrote a letter to all Cardinals criticizing my letter. Obviously, Parolin forced that on him. I answered him immediately (read my blog of 1st March) with a supplement later (10th March).
It’s now a whole year since my visit to Pope Francis, but still no word from him. I am not sure whether my letters can reach him, so I put now on my blog what I want to say, hoping that he may get the chance to read it through somebody.
During the last two years, the Holy See did three things that damaged our Church in China:
1) A secret agreement with Chinese government on the appointment of bishops
The peculiarity of this agreement is its secrecy. It’s not even given to me to see it. Strictly speaking we couldn’t say anything either pro or against it. But one thing we know is that it is about the appointment of bishops. Pope Francis said that he had the last word in the matter, but I cannot be sure of that unless I can see the Chinese version of the document. In fact, I doubt whether there could be found such a clear statement that the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church has the supreme power of these appointments.
Now, even before the signing of the agreement, there was a non-written compromise by choosing a candidate acceptable to both sides, that’s why many bishops had a double approval. The papal bulla could not be read during the ordination ceremony, but before the ceremony, in the sacristy; it used to be read to the bishops and the priests present.
As for the two recent episcopal ordinations, their double approval was decided a long time ago, before the signing of the agreement.
Whether the agreement, which is about to come to termination, will be renewed or not, we have nothing to say, we don’t even see its importance.
2) More damaging: the legitimization of seven ex-communicated “bishops”
Before and after the Cultural Revolution, the government had forced several priests to accept illegitimate ordination. Those who refused were sent to prison or labour camp where they could die. Many who accepted ordination were not bad people. During the time of the government’s “Open Door Policy”, especially when cardinal Tomko was the Prefect of the Congregation of Evangelization, many such illegitimately ordained bishops had a chance to present to the Holy See their humble petition for legitimization. The Holy See after some investigation approved these bishops to great consolation and encouragement of the bishops and their people.
Unfortunately, after the retirement, because of age, of cardinal Tomko around the year 2000, people in the Holy See, with high illusion on the “Ostpolitik”, adopted the policy of appeasement with the Communists. Opportunists, who considered the episcopacy as a career, infiltrated the Church and they got ordained as bishops. Seven such ex-communicated bishops, supported by the government, for many years challenged the doctrine and the law of the Church and under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party worked hard to make the Church subservient to the Party.
In September 2018, the Holy See, besides signing the agreement, also legitimized the seven bishops in an astonishing way.
At the beginning we believed that the Pope only lifted the ex-communication welcoming them back to the Church. We supposed that they had recognized their mis-behavior and obtained the forgiveness from the Pope, but we could not see any sign of repentance and gratitude.
Later we came to know that the Pope even gave them the jurisdiction over those dioceses. That was astonishing for us: “He is giving the sheep to the wolves!” The seven bishops showed no change in their behavior. They reaffirmed their loyalty to the atheist government. They showed no humble gratitude for the kindness of the Pope. Instead, they went around singing triumph: “Look, how clever we are to be on the side of the government. We are the winners. How stupid those bishops who followed faithfully the Vatican! Now they have even to surrender their episcopacy (Shantou and Mingtung) to us.”
We have been told that the agreement is to guarantee true shepherds to the people of God in China. Are those seven fellows such shepherds? The event is celebrated with great joy by Vatican people because now all the bishops in China are legitimate!? We are simply confused!
In the past Thirteenth Week of the Year in the liturgy, we have been praying, in the Collect, to God “who made us children of light, to give us the splendor of Truth”, but for so long time we found ourselves left in confusion, and bewilderment.
Cardinal Parolin says: “This is the beginning of the journey.” No! It’s the end of degradation!
3) The most cruel thing is what happened last year around this time, as I have narrated in the beginning of this article: With the “Pastoral Guidelines” cardinal Parolin served the last blow to murder the Church in China.
The first thing he did was to silence my voice by making the “Commission for the Church in China” surreptitiously disappear. Then he sent Archbishop Savio Hon in exile to Athens. [On last Thursday, the first reading in the Holy Mass was from the prophet Amos: “Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy any more at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” (Amos 7,12-13)]
Parolin single-handedly completes now the trilogy of murdering the Church in China.
He encourages those from the underground to join the Patriotic Association, thus becoming members of a schismatic Church, to sing the song of Sion in the bird-cage (like the Hebrew slaves beside the rivers of Babylon).
He allows the government to confiscate the churches of the underground, to prevent the priests from saying Mass in their private homes and to bar from church functions and religious activities those under eighteen years of age.
Since the Holy See will appoint no more bishops in the underground, the community will die by natural dead (but the faith can survive in the “catacombs”).
While everybody is concerned about the National Security Law, how can I be so “selfish” to be concerned only about our Church?
The freedom of the people and religious freedom cannot be separated. In China there is no religious freedom, because there is no freedom for the people; when religion is deprived of freedom, it can no longer help the people to fight for freedom. When Hong Kong loses its freedom, the Church will not be spared either. And when the Church loses its freedom, it can no longer defend Hong Kong’s freedom with the people.
When the whole society is challenged to choose between right and wrong, can the Church be dispensed from that choice and enjoy privately its own peace? No! It’s not possible! It’s not allowed! In the present situation, can We, people of the Church be united at any cost? United in the Truth? Or in obeying the dictatorship?
Let us hear again the prophet Amos: “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5, 15). The Lord doesn’t take delight in our offerings or songs, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5, 24).
Why in the roaring of all the nations, the voice of the Vatican is missing? Is it true that money has to do with this? Why is the Vatican not coming out to deny the rumors?
Lastly, let the words of Amos give us encouragement and hope: “In that day, I will restore David’s fallen shelter — I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins — and will rebuild it as it used to be (I will liberate Hong Kong).” …… “The days are coming…..I will bring my people Israel back from exile, they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine…..I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” (Amos 9:11-15) (See you there – near the Legislative Council Building where the popular resistance started).
Cardinal Charles Bo, thank you for speaking out for Human Rights!