SHAANXI, China, April 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholic Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin was asked by Vatican officials to stand aside for a Communist party-approved bishop while persecution of Catholics and other Christians continues despite a groundbreaking agreement between the Holy See and China.
Bishop Guo, the former bishop of underground Catholic Diocese in Mindong in Fujian province of northeastern China, told ucanews.com, “The government officials said in clarity that they do not recognize me as a bishop.”
Official recognition, he said, will only come upon joining the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and its church affairs committee at Fujian province. He said this would mean acknowledging the legitimacy of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which rejects papal authority and has historically appointed its own bishops in defiance of the Pope.
However, because of a September 2018 agreement between the Vatican and China, Pope Francis has veto power over any new bishops appointed by the officially-sanctioned ecclesial association.
Bishop Guo, 59, told the news agency that Communist officials told him, “They said: ‘You are not sincere enough and therefore we cannot recognize your identity.’” He is not certain that he will be able to concelebrate the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, April 18.
In 2018, papal delegates asked Bishop Guo to serve as an auxiliary to Bishop Zhan Silu, who had come from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Once Bishop Zhan Silu received a pardon from Pope Francis, he took over the diocese when Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli led a Vatican delegation to China in December.
According to ucanews.com, the concelebration of the Chrism Mass will depend on whether Bishop Guo joins the officially recognized group of bishops.
Bishop Zhan, however, admitted that the Communist government has the final say.
“When Bishop Guo smoothes out his relations with the government, there will be no problem,” he said.
During the Chrism Mass, the bishop blesses and consecrates oil for sacramental use, which includes the ordination and consecration of priests and bishops and the blessing of the laity for Holy Confirmation. Holy oil is also used for bishops and priests during Holy Week to reaffirm their vows of ordination.
Pope Francis’ 'natural sympathy' for communists
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong reproved Pope Francis for his apparent ignorance of the realities of life under Communism. Writing in The Wall Street Journal in December, Zen suggested that the Pope may sympathize with Communists under the belief that they are persecuted.
Zen recalled that once the Holy See and Beijing cut off relations in the 1950s, Catholics and other Christians were arrested and sent to labor camps. Visiting his native China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, Zen found a situation “beyond imagination. A whole nation under slavery. We forget these things too easily. We also forget that you can never have a truly good agreement with a totalitarian regime.”
In Cardinal Zen’s book “For the Love of My People,” he criticized Pope Francis for a “strategy that was wrong, all about surrender. In November 2018, he told LaCroix that the Vatican is helping the Communists “annihilate” the Catholic Church in China.
Catholic church shuttered and razed
The September 2018 agreement between the Vatican and communist China has not apparently placated the government regarding their treatment of believers. On April 4, authorities in Qianyang, Shaanxi province, razed the only Catholic church in the city. An amateur video recorded as bulldozers and heavy equipment brought the two-story building to the ground. The upper floor of the church was used for Mass, and the lower floor housed religious sisters who provided medical care and medicines to their poor neighbors. According to the report in Asianews.it, there are 2,000 Catholics in the town.
The parish is within the Diocese of Fengxiang, which was shepherded by Bishop Luke Li Jingfeng until his death in November 2017. It is believed that it was the only diocese in China where neither the laity nor the bishop belonged to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Since 2017, the diocese has been led by Bishop Peter Li Huiyuan, 54. According to reports, the Qianyang parish because of miracles attributed to the holy water there. Pilgrims have long come to the church, seeking physical and spiritual remedies.
In October 2018, about one month after the Vatican and China inked their accord, Chinese authorities destroyed the Marian shrines of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Dongergou (Shaanxi) and Our Lady of Bliss, also known as Our Lady of the Mountain, in Anlong (Guizhou).
The church at Dongergou remains closed, and Catholics continue to come on Sunday for Mass that is celebrated outdoors in front of the shuttered church. Catholics asserted that the Communist government demolished the shrines as part of its program of “Sinicization” to make the Catholic Church more closely resemble the Communist party’s view of Chinese culture, politics, and society.
Authorities claim that the shrine in Anlong was destroyed because it lacked the necessary building permits. Local Catholics told AsiaNews that they believe the demolitions were part of the so-called “Sinicization” efforts of the Communist Party to bring the Catholic Church more in-line with the government’s understanding of Chinese culture, society and politics.