October 1 – December 31, 2010
October 3, 2010:
Program for the hearing impaired at the Cathedral of Wenzhou
Since 2007 a group of parishioners at the Catholic Cathedral of Wenzhou have organized a catechetics course for the deaf, in which a total of 40 persons have thus far taken part. Twenty three of those participating have since asked to be baptized. At a presentation on Oct. 3rd, seven of them gave personal testimony of their faith journey. The program for 150 participants, among whom were the course participants as well as priests, sisters, and two sign language interpreters, included a homily by the cathedral pastor, a dance program and the song “Love brings us together” which was sung and signed simultaneously by the members of the group. Immediately after the presentation sixteen other hearing impaired persons signed up for the next course, as was mentioned in the report (www.chinacatholic.org/show.php?contentid=15474; Fides Oct. 11).
October 5–11, 2010:
“The Return to China” – Bishop of the Assyrian Church visits Hong Kong
Bishop Mar Awa Royel, head of the California Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East (“Nestorians”), gave a lecture about his church at the Divinity School of Chung Chi College. Afterwards he met with leaders of the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches in the city. A high point of his visit was the Oct. 6th Eucharistic liturgy celebrated at the Lutheran Theological Seminary using the rite of the East Syrian Church, the first such liturgy celebrated in about 600 years, according to a report titled “The Return to China” published on the website of the Assyrian Church. That same day, the bishop said in a press conference that his church was the first to bring Christianity to China in the 7th century, although today the Assyrian Church has no faithful in China. The bishop, however, is hopeful that the Assyrian Church will one day be able to reestablish itself in China although there are no concrete plans at present to pursue this goal (Ecumenical News International Oct. 27; news.assyrianchurch.com/the-return-to-china/299; sundayex.catholic.org.hk/hk/2010/hk101107.html).
October 7–15, 2010:
Muslim World League visits China
A delegation from the Muslim World League, headed by Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Al-Turki, has visited Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and Gansu Province. According to Chinese media reports the delegation came at the invitation of the Chinese Islamic Association in order to promote friendly ties with the Chinese government and to further cooperation with the Islamic community in China. Delegation member Mufti Mustafa from Bosnia-Herzegovina praised religious freedom and human rights in China, as well as the fact that 56 ethnic groups with different cultures and religions succeed in living harmoniously together. The chairman of the Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin, stressed the traditional friendship between China and Islamic countries. The Muslim World League was founded in 1962. It considers its members to be cultural and religious representatives of the Islamic peoples (Xinhua Oct. 14 and 15).
October 11–12, 2010:
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (Hong Kong) in Shanghai
It was the first visit by Cardinal Zen to his city of birth since 2004. The fact that he was allowed to do so at all was seen by Bishop John Tong as a “signal” that there has been some improvement in relations. After the visit Zen said that it had been a great joy to once again see his old friend, 94 year old Shanghai Bishop Jin Luxian, and Auxiliary Bishop Xing Wenzhi (the real purpose of the visit). He added, however, that due to extremely close surveillance, it had not been possible to freely discuss sensitive issues. A visit to his brothers in the underground Church had been unthinkable for the same reason. Zen also visited the Expo. Later, he vigorously defended himself in Asianews against malicious allegations in a commentary on the website www.chinacath.org where, among other things, it was reported there that after their meeting Auxiliary Bishop Xing had decided to take part in the government sponsored “8th National Assembly of Chinese Catholics” (see below) (Asianews Oct. 15 and 21; South China Morning Post Oct. 16).
October 16–25, 2010:
Third Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization meets without Chinese delegation
Because the official Protestant Church in China (Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council) did not consider itself in a position to sign the Lausanne Covenant, a requirement for all delegates, they were invited only as observers. They declined this status. Chinese authorities prevented around 200 representatives of house churches from leaving the country for the Congress. According to Christianity researcher Liu Peng, it would have been embarrassing for Beijing had the unregistered churches been accepted as full delegates while those from the state approved organizations could take part only as observers. Doug Birdsall, executive chair of the Lausanne Movement, said that they had no intention of challenging China’s “Three-Self” principles. He regretted that China, which has the second largest evangelical population in the world after South Africa, would scarcely be represented at the Congress. A planned China-Africa dialogue evening had to be cancelled. – More than 4,000 delegates took part in the congress in Cape Town. The First Lausanne Congress was launched in 1974 by evangelical Baptist preacher Billy Graham (Christian Post Oct. 19; Ecumenical News International Oct. 18; South China Morning Post website Oct. 16).
October 17, 2010:
Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong declares 2011 “Year of the Laity”
Hong Kong Vicar General, Father Dominic Chan, announced the “Year of the Laity” on Mission Sunday at a mass in the Hong Kong stadium. The Hong Kong diocesan synod of 2000/2001 had stressed the vocation of the laity. The motto of the Year of the Laity, “Come, Follow Me!” has three dimensions: calling, communion, and mission. Fr. Chan made special mention of the more than 3,000 adult baptisms in the diocese during the 2010 Easter Vigil celebrations (Hong Kong Sunday Examiner Oct. 24).
October 18 – November 3, 2010:
More than 13,000 Chinese Muslims set out for the Hajj in Mecca
They departed from Beijing, Urumqi, Kunming, Lanzhou, and Yinchuan aboard 41 chartered flights. Arab News spoke of more than 13,500 Chinese, an increase of almost 7% over the 12,700 Hajjis of last year. Reports in the official Chinese media repeated once again that only the China Islamic Association was authorized to organize the pilgrimages, and Saudi Arabia strictly refused to grant visas to individual applicants. At the beginning of August the China Islamic Association in Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan organized propaganda teams to bring Muslims to a “correct attitude” towards the Hajj. Part of the campaign aimed at explaining that no one is obligated to undertake the Hajj who does not have sufficient financial means to cover the costs, since many Muslims in China are still poor and inflated Hajj statistics are bad for the economic and social development of the Muslim regions. The average age of the pilgrims was sixty. Women made up a third of the total. In 2010 the date for the Hajj to Mecca fell between November 15th and 19th (Arab News Oct. 25; www.chinanews.com Nov. 1 and 3 as found at www.sara.gov.cn).
October 19, 2010:
Macao and Mongolia sign an agreement to fight human trafficking
Macao has been identified by a number of international organizations as a sex trade hub. “Dozens” of Mongolian women work in Macao’s sex industry. According to a report in the Macao Daily Post entitled “Agreement between Macao and Mongolia on cooperation in the battle against human trafficking,” Macao’s Secretary for Security Cheong Kuoc Va has stated that Macao authorities are ready to provide accommodation, medical care, and protection to the victims of human trafficking (according to Xinhua Oct. 19).
October 23, 2010:
Museum opened in the former cathedral of Hualian (Taiwan)
The decision to convert the 52 year old church into a diocesan historical museum is part of efforts by the Church in Taiwan to find new uses for “underused” places of worship. In 2009 the seven dioceses of Taiwan had resident priests in 373 churches. Another 354 churches are considered “station” churches which do not have resident priests but which are open during the day, and have Mass on Sunday, and 120 are “semi-public sites” without a resident priest which are closed on workdays and have no fixed schedule of Masses. According to information from the Bishops’ Conference of Taiwan, the churches without a resident priest should not simply be sold. Rather, the bishops encouraged the laity to “revitalize” the churches by introducing other spiritual or religious activities. Nine hundred persons signed the internet appeal to save St. Augustine’s Church in Jiayi. Bishop Chung An-zu denied rumors that the church was to be converted into a warehouse. St. Augustine’s will remain open for prayer (UCAN Nov. 9).
October 26, 2010:
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe meets the Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs (Bureau for Religious Affairs) reports that the current Archbishop of Naples and former Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples spoke with Director Wang Zuo’an about a future “strengthening of the religious exchange between China and Italy.” In Beijing, Cardinal Sepe met with Bishop Li Shan and also joined a seminar on “Religion and Social Harmony” organized by the Development Research Center of the State Council. On the 28th, together with Italian head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, Cardinal Sepe visited the Expo in Shanghai. Members of the Community of Sant’Egidio also took part in Sepe’s delegation. On Nov. 4, the Guangzhou weekly magazine Nanfang zhoumo published a long interview, in which Sepe spoke, among other things, about multi-culturalism and the Chinese Cultural Center which he had founded in the Archdiocese of Naples for the city’s Chinese immigrants (UCAN Oct. 27; sara.gov.cn Oct. 26; www.infzm.com/content/52111).
October 26, 2010:
Phayul: Three Tibetan monks condemned to long sentences
According to a report (Phayul Oct. 26) the monks were arrested on May 19, 2008, when they refused to denounce the Dalai Lama during a patriotic re-education campaign conducted by government work teams in the Shelkar Choede monastery (Dhingri, Shigatse county). The monks Tenzin Gephel and Ngawang were each sentenced to twelve years in prison. Another monk was given five years. The date on which the sentence was handed down is not known.
October 27, 2010:
Tibetan Government in Exile protests “Management Measures for the Monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism”
Tsering Phuntsop, Minister for Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Government in Exile charged in a press conference that the government regulation was directed at hindering the handing down of Buddhist teaching in Tibet, and made it extremely difficult for the monasteries to carry out their religious activities. The regulation weakens the spiritual ties between teacher and pupil (www.tibet.net Oct. 27). Made public by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the regulation was to take effect on Nov. 1, 2010.
October 31, 2010:
Ninth episcopal consecration of the year in Nanchang
With the approval of both the Pope and of the Chinese government, 46 year old John Baptist Li Suguang (born 1965) was consecrated coadjutor bishop of Nanchang. Bishop Li Shan (Beijing) was the principal consecrator. Co-consecrators were Bishop Shen Bin (Haimen), Bishop Zhao Fengchang (Liaocheng), together with the ailing 89 year old ordinary of Nanchang, Bishop Wu Shizhen, all of whom are recognized by Rome. Li was unanimously elected a bishop candidate in 2009. The new bishop said that he wants to take up contacts with the underground Church and hopes for eventual reconciliation. The underground community is led by 90 year old Bishop Zeng Jingmu of Yujiang. In 1985 the open Church authority joined together the five dioceses of the province, including Nanchang and Yujiang, to form the diocese of Jiangxi (UCAN Nov. 1).
October 31, 2010
Expo in Shanghai closes to a record number of visitors
73 million people visited the exposition. According to analysts, one particularly winning feature of the Expo was the contribution of the more than 70,000 volunteers (see among others: Hong Kong Sunday Examiner Nov. 14).
November 1–10, 2010:
Sixth Chinese population census – without questions about religion
During the ten day long census households were to give answers to 18 questions on, for example, the number of children and the place of legal domicile. There were, however, no questions asked about either income or religious affiliation. Since many Chinese live in a legal “grey zone” due to strict government policies on births or to the complicated household registration system, it was not possible to include all unreported children or migrant workers in the census. To be sure, authorities did promise that unreported children could be legalized by payment of a reduced surcharge, if parents would acknowledge their existence during the course of the census. As a control, a micro-census was carried out between Nov. 11 and Nov. 30. The results of the census are to be published in April of 2011 (CNN Oct. 1; taz Nov. 1; Xinhua Oct. 31).
November 8, 2010:
Amity Press celebrates their 80 millionth Bible
As reported in the government news agency Xinhua, the Amity Printing Co., founded in 1988, has completed printing of its 80 millionth Bible, maintaining a production rate of approximately one million Bibles a month. Today, one fourth of all the Bibles printed in the entire world are now “made in China,” said the secretary general of the Protestant “Three-Self” Patriotic Movement, Xu Xiaohong. Twenty six million Bibles, almost a third of the total production, are being exported to more than 60 countries and regions of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The company prints Bibles in many languages, including Braille. Even Catholic editions of the Bible are being printed in Nanjing. Jiang Jianhong, of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, explained that the government supports the press by, among other things, providing various forms of tax relief. A Bible printed in China costs only a fifth as much as the same quality product from other manufacturers. The United Bible Societies have been supporting the printing of Bibles for 25 years through their donations of Bible quality paper. As has been the case in the past, the sale of Bibles in China is only possible via the churches. Bibles cannot be purchased in ordinary bookstores. (www.amityfoundation.org Nov. 24; www.ubscp.org/celebrate25years/; Xinhua Nov. 8).
- Special issue stamps of the Chinese Post for the printing of the 80-millionth Bible.
November 8, 2010:
700 Tibetan monks demand “Equality” and “Freedom of Language”
According to a report in the Tibet Times (see TibetInfoNet), the monks were making their way to the seat of the district government when they were stopped by security forces. Most of the 700 monks were from the district of Sershul / Shiqu (Kardze / Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province). There had already been two other such protests in the district, one involving about 300, and another with 50 monks and nuns. The monks had been levying symbolic “fines” from fellow Tibetans guilty of using Chinese words when speaking the Tibetan language. In October, thousands of Tibetan school children in the Province of Qinghai protested against an intensified plan by the province government to impose Chinese as the language of instruction in the schools (TibetInfoNet Tibet News Digest Oct. 23 – Nov. 5; Nov. 6–19; TibetInfoNet Tibet Update Nov. 11).
November 11–15, 2010:
9th Congress of the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association in Kuala Lumpur
Approximately 120 Chinese speaking biblical scholars from thirteen different countries and their co-workers in the biblical pastoral field took part in the congress, the theme of which was: “Living out the Word to Spread God’s Kingdom.” The United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association (UCCBA) was founded in 1990 as an association of Chinese Catholic Bible groups (UCAN Nov. 3).
November 12–27, 2010:
The Asian Games in Guangzhou – and religion
A religious center with prayer spaces for Muslims, Buddhists, Daoists, Catholics, Protestants, and Hindus, as well as a “serenity room” for adherents of other religions, was built in the Guangzhou “Athletes’ Village” for the 10,000 athletes coming from 45 different countries. The news agency Xinhua (Nov. 8) reported that the Islamic prayer space was the largest since organizers expected that there would be an especially large number of Muslim participants in the games. This year, for the first time, there was also a room for the Daoists. Twenty four religious leaders, assisted by 46 volunteers, were to lead worship services, for example, for the Muslim festival “Eid al-Adha” which falls during the games this year. In addition to the on site religious center, athletes would have the choice of praying in one of the 28 renovated churches and temples throughout the city. A reported 60,000 volunteers were on hand to help athletes and visitors throughout the performance of the games. – On Nov. 8, Radio Free Asia reported that, in the run up to the Asian Games, government authorities had forbidden Protestant “house church” communities in the Pearl River delta to hold worship services.
November 15, 2010:
Bishop Paul Jiang Taoran (Shijiazhuang) dies at the age of 84
Bishop Jiang was ordained a priest in 1953. During the Cultural Revolution he was sentenced to “reform-through-labor” and only returned to the diocese in 1982. He was ordained Bishop in 1989 without Rome’s approval, though in 2008 the Pope recognized him as a “legitimate bishop without jurisdiction,” placing him under the authority of underground Bishop Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding. One source reports that he obeyed Bishop Jia “wholeheartedly.” The efforts of both toward cooperation have led to some parishes in the Diocese of Shijiazhuang (Zhengding) being led by both underground and government recognized priests working together. Because of the tense political situation (see below) none of the other bishops were allowed to participate in Bishop Jiang’s funeral on Nov. 19 (UCAN Nov. 15 and 19).
November 15, 2010:
Episcopal consecration in Zhoucun (Shandong Province)
Joseph Yang Yongqiang (born 1970) has been ordained Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Zhoucun by Bischof Fang Xingyao (Linyi). Co-consecrators were Bishops Li Mingshu (Qingdao), Zhao Fengchang (Liaocheng), Zhang Xianwang (Jinan), and the Zhoucun native, Shanghai Auxiliary Bishop Xing Wenzhi. The local ordinary, Bishop Ma Xuesheng, is still undergoing lengthy hospitalization. Since 2005 the newly ordained bishop taught at the major seminary in Jinan while working for both the provincial Catholic Patriotic Association and the Church Affairs Committee. He was nominated by Bishop Ma and unanimously elected bishop candidate in 2009. His consecration took place after he had received both papal and government approval (UCAN Nov. 15).
November 15 – December 4, 2010:
Shijiazhuang seminarians go on strike to protest government interference
All 100 seminarians went on strike to protest the appointment of government official Tang Zhaojun, department head of the Hebei Province Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission, as vice-rector of the regional theological seminary for the dioceses of Hebei Province. The seminarians feared that he would interfere in the running of the seminary. On Nov. 11, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission had announced Tang Zhaojun’s appointment as vice-rector. Thereupon, the seminary’s teaching staff, with support from the seminarians, on Nov. 15 announced the suspension of classes while waiting for a meeting of the seminary’s board of directors. However, several Hebei bishops on the board could not be reached before the Nov. 20 consecration in Chengde, and were unable to meet afterwards. On Dec. 1, the teaching staff decided to temporarily resume classes. The seminarians, however, rejected this decision and on Dec. 2, clad in their white surplices, they protested silently for 14 hours in front of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission office in Shijiazhuang. They were demanding a written promise from the authorities that the appointment of Tang would be rescinded. The seminarians told Asianews and UCAN that the protest was on their own initiative and did not involve the priests on staff and the bishops. They wanted to prevent the authorities from applying pressure on the clergy and said: “We have to protect them.” In a written declaration issued on Dec. 4, the authorities rescinded the appointment. The news of the Chinese seminarians’ protest action spread via the internet and led many Catholics to express their support and prayers. On Dec. 4 the seminary expressed thanks for this support on the seminary website. The regular schedule of classes was resumed on Dec. 6 (Asianews Dec. 2; UCAN Nov. 24; Dec. 3 and 6; www.hbcseminary.org Dec. 4).
November 17, 2010:
State Administration for Religious Affairs offers congratulations on Muslim Feast of Sacrifice (Kurban)
In a “feast day greeting to its Muslim friends,” the office extended its congratulations and best wishes to all Chinese Muslims and to the Chinese hajjis in Saudi Arabia, stating that both the Party and the government placed great value on their work with Muslims and that the life of the large number of Muslims was “dear to their heart.” According to the message, the State Administration for Religious Affairs conscientiously carries out the Party’s religious policies and supports Muslims in their efforts to adapt to a socialist society. It encourages them to actively cooperate in the building up of a prosperous society (www.sara.gov.cn Nov. 17).
November 18, 2010:
Fides publishes Cardinal Shan’s Letter to the Bishops of Mainland China
The letter of the Taiwanese Cardinal and Archbishop Emeritus of Gaoxiong, Paul Shan Kuo-hsi (Shan Guoxi), S.J., to his “beloved brothers in the episcopate” is dated May 1, but has only now been made public. Cardinal Shan is originally from Hebei. Taking as his starting point his own pastoral experience, the Cardinal writes in his letter on the qualities of the relationship of a bishop to his priests (Fides Nov. 18; English text at: www.fides.org/eng/documents/CardShan.LettVesc_18112010.doc).
November 19, 2010:
Tibetan nun who suffered serious health damage is released from prison
Her injuries (including fractures and loss of hearing) could only have been caused by beatings during her imprisonment, a report said. The nun, Taga (Tash Yangzom, or Yangtso), was arrested along with two other nuns during the course of protests against the government in the district of Kardze / Ganzi (Sichuan Province). The two other nuns were reported to have been released earlier, after having also been badly beaten. At the same time, 12 nuns from the Drakar monastery and 55 nuns from the Pang-ri monastery together with a few others from the Ganden Choeling monastery in the Kardze district were reportedly taken into custody for having participated in protests (Tibetan Review Nov. 27).
November 20, 2010:
Eight bishops recognized by the Pope participate in illicit consecration in Chengde
Though lacking papal approval, 42 year old Joseph Guo Jincai has been ordained the first Bishop of Chengde (Hebei Province). Bishop Fang Jianping of Tangshan was the principal consecrator, with Bishops Zhao Fengchang of Liaocheng and Li Shan of Beijing acting as co-consecrators. Bishops Pei Junmin (Liaoning), Meng Qinglu (Hohhot), Feng Xinmao (Hengshui/Jingxian), Li Liangui (Cangzhou/Xianxian), and Coadjutor Bishop An Shuxin (Baoding) concelebrated. All eight of the above are recognized by both the Pope and by the government. It was the first illicit consecration since 2006. The ordination took place in Pingquan, under a tight security blanket. Mobile telephone signals were electronically blocked. – At least three of the bishops present were physically brought to the site by police who exerted considerable pressure on them to take part. Bishop Li Liangui “disappeared” from the bishop’s house on Nov. 12 in the company of a number of government officials and since then had been unreachable on his cell phone. Bishop Feng went missing some time on Nov. 14 or 15. Priests of his diocese sent out the alarm to the worldwide Church via UCAN. Bishop Pei was “picked up” against his will from a hotel in Chifeng (Inner Mongolia) where he had been staying for a priestly ordination. The return portion of his plane ticket to Shenyang was taken away. Bishop An had said days before the event that he was under pressure but that he would never take part in an illegal consecration. Bishop Emeritus Liu Jinghe of Tangshan (still considered by the government as the ordinary) is said to have been removed from office on Nov. 17 for having refused to take part in the consecration. – “The Holy See is disturbed by reports from mainland China alleging that a number of bishops in communion with the Pope are being forced by government officials to attend an illicit episcopal ordination in Chengde [...]. If these reports are true, then the Holy See would consider such actions as grave violations of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience,” said Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, spokesperson for the Vatican press office on Nov. 18. He added that the Holy See was communicating with the Chinese authorities on this matter. At the time of his consecration Bishop Guo Jincai was vice-secretary general of the Patriotic Association of the Chinese Catholic Church and a member of the National People’s Congress. The Diocese of Chengde was created by the government in 2010 and is not recognized as a diocese by the Vatican (Asianews Nov. 19 and 20; UCAN Nov. 17, 18, and 20).
November 24, 2010:
Vatican issues official communiqué on episcopal consecration at Chengde
The episcopal ordination in Chengde was a grave violation of Catholic discipline and the pressure exerted on the participating bishops was a “grave violation of freedom of religion and conscience.” This communiqué was much more pointedly critical than the one released on the occasion of the three illicit consecrations which took place in 2006. In addition, the statement went on, “the Holy See intends to carry out a detailed evaluation of what has happened, including consideration of the aspect of validity and the canonical position of the bishops involved.” Fr. Guo Jincai now finds himself in a most serious canonical condition and has exposed himself to severe canonical sanctions, the document said (Vatican Information Service Nov. 24).
November 25, 2010:
Chinese government accuses Vatican of violating religious freedom
In response to the Vatican communiqué, Hong Lei, foreign ministry spokesperson, told journalists: “Any kind of allegation or intervention constitutes an act of restriction of freedom and intolerance.” He said the Chinese Catholic bodies carried out ordinations independently, reflecting China’s “freedom of religious belief” and that Vatican interference violated that freedom (AFP Nov. 25).
November 30 – December 6, 2010:
Date published for “8th National Assembly of Representatives of the Catholic Church in China,” massive pressure exerted on bishops and Catholics of Hebei
On Nov. 30 (or Nov. 29) it was announced that the repeatedly postponed and divisive “8th National Assembly of Representatives of the Catholic Church in China” was to take place on Dec. 7– 9, 2010. A commentary on the website of the Diocese of Beijing greeted the assembly. However, almost all mainland Chinese diocesan websites examined by China heute on Dec. 8 and the Catholic newspaper Xinde did not mention the event. According to UCAN, some dioceses called their faithful to pray daily for the assembly. In the days preceding the conference, the Catholic news agencies UCAN and Asianews as well as other sources reported massive pressure by government authorities of Hebei Province to force the bishops of the official Church to take part. In the Diocese of Xianxian (Cangzhou) Bishop Li Liangui was missing ever since his forced participation in the illicit bishop’s ordination in Chengde (see Nov. 20). On Dec. 5, the diocesan website carried an appeal to the bishop to contact his diocese about certain “urgent matters.” The government authorities were also looking for him and threatened to make him the target of a country wide manhunt. On Dec. 6 dozens of religious affairs officials and police came to the cathedral. Vicar General Yang Quan’en, Chancellor Yu Rusong, and two other priests were interrogated and warned of “consequences” for the bishop’s family and for the diocese if the bishop could not be found. On Dec. 7, all the members of the bishop’s household were interrogated, all movements on the diocesan property were closely followed, and police cars prowled the area. Some priests of the diocese speculated that the bishop was either in hiding or that he was ashamed to appear publicly before his priests and the faithful. It was also widely speculated that he was in hiding in order to avoid being forced to take part in the National Assembly. By press time [of China heute 2010, No. 4] on Dec. 9, Bishop Li had still not made an appearance. – In the neighboring diocese of Jingxian (Hengshui), Bishop Feng Xinmao remained isolated in a hotel and under police guard following his forced participation in the ordination at Chengde. On Dec. 6 the authorities allowed him to take part in the funeral of one of the old priests of the diocese after Bishop Feng threatened to undertake a hunger strike. After the burial, priests and faithful surrounded the bishop and escorted him back to the bishop’s house. The house was surrounded for hours by many policemen and their patrol cars while inside some of the priests were involved in negotiations with the authorities and the remaining priests and sisters prayed the rosary together. When the police tried to force an entry into the property in order to seize the bishop, they were reported to have been met with physical resistance on the part of the faithful and of the sisters who were keeping watch over the house. Bishop Feng was eventually taken away and brought to Beijing to the National Assembly. Both Bishop Li and Bishop Feng belong to the official Church and are recognized by both the Pope and the Chinese government. It was reported that a few days previously the orphanage of underground Bishop Jia Zhiguo of Zhending and the community of sisters caring for the 80 orphans were both dissolved. The orphanage is located on cathedral property. Although at first there were no news details available from other provinces about the situation in the days leading up to the National Assembly, Asianews reported that some bishops were in hiding or had announced that they were sick in order to avoid participating (Asianews Dec. 6 and 7; UCAN Nov. 30, Dec. 6, 7, and 8; www.tianguangbao.org Nov. 30).
December 1, 2010:
Pope calls faithful to pray for Church in China during “particularly difficult moments”
During his general audience Pope Benedict XVI called all Catholics worldwide to pray for the Church in China and to “ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to support all Chinese bishops, who are so dear to me, that they may bear courageous witness to their faith.” The papal appeal (minus some sensitive phrases, but with a link to the original text at Fides) appeared on the website of Xinde (Faith), the biggest Catholic newspaper of mainland China, and the full original text was also available on the website of the diocese of Tianjin (Vatican Information Service Dec. 1; www.chinacatholic.org Dec. 1; www.church.tj.cn Dec. 2).
December 7–9, 2010:
“8th National Assembly of Representatives of the Catholic Church in China” meets in Beijing and elects new leadership
45 bishops, 158 priests, 24 sisters, and 87 lay people – 314 in all – took part in the assembly, according to information on a mainland China Catholic website. On Dec. 7, the State Administration for Religious Affairs had reported the presence of 341 delegates, among whom were 64 bishops. A main point was the election of new leadership to the official bodies and especially to the chairmanship of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (not recognized by Rome) and to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. 45 year old Bishop Ma Yinglin, who is without papal approval, was elected chairman of the Bishops’ Conference. The vice-chairmen are Bishops Fang Jianping (Tangshan), Fang Xingyao (Linyi), Li Shan (Beijing), Pei Junmin (Liaoning), Yang Xiaoting (Yan’an), and Zhan Silu (Mindong), all but Bishop Zhan recognized by Rome. Bishop Guo Jincai (Chengde), ordained Nov. 20 without papal approval, became secretary general. Papally recognized 57 year old Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi (Shandong) was elected chairman of the Patriotic Association. Vice-chairmen are: Bishops Guo Jincai, Ma Yinglin, Meng Qinglu (Hohhot), and Shen Bin (Haimen), the priests Huang Bingzhang, Lei Shiyin, and Yue Fusheng as well as Sister Wu Lin and laymen Liu Yuanlong and Shu Nanwu. Liu Yuanlong was elected secretary general.
Liu Bainian, vice-chairman of the Patriotic Association since 1992, and the absent 94 year old Shanghai Bishop Jin Luxian were named honorary chairmen of the two boards.
According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the “8th National Assembly of Representatives of the Catholic Church in China” produced a working report on the last six years and presented plans for the next five years as well as revised Statutes for both the Bishops’ Conference and the Patriotic Association (UCAN Dec. 8, Asianews Dec. 7 and 9; sara.gov.cn Dec. 7 and 9; see also China heute 2011, No. 1, pp. 4-7 [article in German]).
December 8, 2010:
Bodhgaya: 900th Anniversary of the reincarnation lineage of the Karmapa Lamas
The 17th Karmapa Lama, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, inaugurated a two day celebration in the Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, Northern India (site of Budha’s Enlightenment), to mark the 900th anniversary of the establishment of his line of reincarnation, begun by Düsum Khyenpa (1100–1193), founder of the Karma-Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. His rival and fellow claimant for the title of 17th Karmapa Lama, Trinley Thaye Dorje, celebrated the same anniversary on December 30, 2010 in the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya. 25 year old Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who fled to India from the People’s Republic of China in 1999, is recognized by both the Chinese authorities and by the Dalai Lama as the 17th Karmapa Lama, although some of the Karma-Kayu school continue to recognize the 27 year old Trinley Thaye Dorje. The line of the Karmapa Lamas, religious leaders of the Karma-Kagyu school, is considered the oldest reincarnation line within Tibetan Buddhism. After the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the Karmapa Lama is the 3rd highest spiritual authority in Tibetan Buddhism (Asianews Dec. 6; www.karmapa-news.org Dec. 30; www.tibetsun.com Dec. 7).
December 9–11, 2010:
Delegation of the China Christian Council in Germany
A delegation of the Protestant China Christian Council, led by its president, Rev. Gao Feng, also visited Switzerland and the Netherlands. The principal themes of the visit were the welfare and social work of the Church as well as theological formation.
December 10, 2010:
Nobel Peace Prize goes to absent civil rights activist Liu Xiaobo
The Nobel Peace Prize, symbolically placed upon an empty chair, was awarded in Oslo to Liu Xiaobo, at the time serving an 11 year prison sentence. The Chinese authorities had placed his wife under house arrest and prevented a number of co-signers of his “Charter 08” from leaving China. According to estimates of the human rights organization Amnesty International, more than 200 Chinese were either refused exit permits, were placed under house arrest, or were imprisoned. It was the second time in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize that the honoree was unable to be present to accept the award. The granting of the award to Liu Xiaobo was met with protests from the Chinese government (www.dw-world.de Dec. 10).
December 11, 2010:
Cathedral of Tianjin to become an “Energy Efficient Church”
On this day three energy saving light fixtures were installed in the high vaulted ceiling of the large neo-romanesque Xikai Church. They will light the nave of the church and are expected to result in enormous energy savings. The light fixtures, costing 3,000 Yuan a piece, were paid for by the faithful. With this step, the congregation is responding to the call of the Asian bishops for conservation and to the challenge of the authorities for greater energy savings. Resources which God has created for the whole of mankind should be available to greater numbers of people – according to a report (Xinde Jan. 1, 2011).
December 13–14, 2010:
Catholic Forum on formation of clerical vocations meets in Shijiazhuang
Approximately 70 participants came to the provincial capital of Hebei for the two-day long event. Among them were Bishop Yang Xiaoting of the Diocese of Yan’an, rectors of 10 major seminaries and a row of minor seminaries, directors of studies, and seminary bursars. According to a report in the Catholic newspaper Xinde (February 1, 2011), superiors and novice directors of a number of women’s congregations throughout China were also on hand for the forum. The Xinde Institute for Culture organized the event. The forum’s major stress was on the need for thorough and up to date formation in all seminaries, as well as for continued and specific ongoing formation for clerical vocations after ordination. Seminarian delegates representing their classmates in two major seminaries also took part in the discussions. The organizers invited formators from Hong Kong, Korea, USA, the Philippines, and Germany to report on formation programs for Chinese priests, sisters, and seminarians. Fr. Larry Lewis MM came from the USA to make a presentation, and Fr. Anton Weber SVD of the China-Zentrum was there from Germany (Anton Weber).
December 15, 2010:
Open Letter to the government by the priests of the Diocese of Cangzhou
Li Liangui, recognized as Bishop of Cangzhou (Xianxian, Hebei) by both the Holy See and the government, did not return to his diocese following the November 20th episcopal ordination (without Papal mandate) in Chengde, in which he had been forced to take part. Some speculated that the reason for this absence was so that he would not have to take part in the National Congress. The authorities threatened the diocese with “consequences” if the bishop were not found. On December 15th, a letter, signed by all the priests of the diocese, was delivered to the government. In it, they expressed their concern about the safety of their bishop and posed the following questions: 1) There is no legal obligation to take part in an episcopal consecration. What has happened to the freedom of the person which is anchored in the Chinese Constitution? 2) Episcopal ordinations are an internal Church matter; is China attempting to introduce a state religion? 3) The diocesan center is surrounded by police vehicles. Does this mean a return to the tactics of the Cultural Revolution? Bishop Li was the only official bishop of the younger generation known to have not taken part in the National Congress. He only returned to his diocese on December 17th, upon which he was immediately brought to a government “guest house” for a “study session” after which he was forced to sign a letter expressing his repentance for having “absented himself from his duties without authorization.” In a poll, readers of CathNews China overwhelmingly chose him as the “outstanding Chinese Catholic personality of the year 2010” (see News Update November 30 – December 6, 2010, in China heute 2011, No. 1, pp. 25f., article in German).
December 17, 2010:
Communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See on the 8th National Assembly of Catholic Chinese Representatives
The Communiqué expressed profound sorrow about the Assembly. The Holy See had let it be known, first and foremost to the bishops, that they should not take part in the event, the document said. Each one of those who were present knows to what extent he or she is responsible before God and the Church. The bishops in particular and the priests will also have to face the expectations of their respective communities, the document continued. The Holy See condemns the grave violation of freedom of religion and of conscience, due to the fact that many bishops and priests were forced to take part in the Assembly. The Communiqué characterized the election of the Chairmen of the Bishops’ College and of the Patriotic Association as deeply deplorable, as both entities could not be recognized in their present form or were governed by principles incompatible with Catholic doctrine. According to the document, the Assembly has rendered the process of reconciliation within the Church much more difficult, and has damaged the dialogue that has been established with the Chinese government (Vatican Information Service Dec. 17, 2010).
December 22, 2010:
Spokesperson of the State Administration for Religious Affairs criticizes the Holy See’s December 17th Communiqué
According to a text published in Xinhua (22.12.), the declaration of the Holy See was imprudent and unfounded. The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China are social bodies which are legitimately registered in accordance with Chinese law and as such, are required to hold an assembly of their representatives every five years. To do this, they require no authorization or recognition of any foreign organization or state. This does not touch on Catholic teaching in any way. The Holy See has threatened to punish Church representatives for their participation; there’s not much doubt about just who is using force here, is there? At the same time that the Vatican is conducting negotiations with China, it is meddling in the internal affairs of the Chinese Catholic Church, in an effort to once again gain control over it. China cannot give up its principles and hopes that the Vatican will return to the correct path to dialogue (Xinhua news agency domestic service Dec. 22, 2010).
December 22, 2010:
Petition against building plans for a Protestant church in Confucius’ birthplace
Confucian groups and ten well known academics are speaking out in a text published online under the title of “Stop the Planned Construction in Qufu (Shandong Province),” the birthplace of Confucius. They argue that the church should not be permitted to surpass the Confucius temple in size and square footage. It would be a blow to the feelings of the followers of Confucius, for whom Qufu is a particularly holy place. They also demand that the church must not be allowed to be built in the gothic style, but that in terms of architecture, it must be adapted to conform to the Chinese style and aesthetic. What’s more, efforts should first be made to bring about the reanimation or “Renaissance” of local Chinese culture and to protect the interests of the indigenous Confucian community of believers. Along with all of this, a call is being made for Confucianism to be recognized as a religion and for it to be guaranteed equal status alongside the other recognized religious in China. Since January 2, 2011, the Confucian website chinarujiao.net has recorded 572 signatures to the petition.
On December 13th, the state news agency Xinhua reported plans to build a 41 meter high, gothic style church, capable of holding 3,000 worshippers, about 3 km from the town’s main Confucius temple. There are also plans for a center for Christian-Confucian dialogue to be constructed alongside the church. According to Feng Zongjie, leader of the Protestant Three-Self-Movement of Qufu, there are almost 10,000 Protestant Christians in the city, who until now have only been able to make use of a makeshift, temporary church. The Xinhua report also mentions a pastor by the name of Kong Xiangling, a 75th generation descendant of Confucius (i.e., “Master Kong”). The leader of the local government religious affairs office is named Kong as well (AP Dec. 25, 2010; South China Morning Post Jan. 5, 2011; Xinhua Dec.13, 2010. The text of the petition can be found at www.rjfx.net/dispbbs.asp?boardID=4&ID=12188&page=1). (Felix Bohlen)
December 23, 2010:
The Pope has named a Chinese Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
With this nomination, the native of Hong Kong Savio Hon Tai-Fai (Salesian) takes over the second highest position in the Vatican dicastery responsible for the mission work of the Church and which therefore has jurisdiction over the Church in China. Along with this promotion, he was made an Archbishop (consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on February 5, 2011.) Born in 1950, Archbishop Hon has until his appointment been professor of theology at the Major Seminary of Hongkong. Since 2004 he is also a member of the Papal International Theological Commission. From the beginning of the 1990s until 2003 he went to mainland China a number of times as a guest professor at various mainland major seminaries. He was also provincial superior of the Salesian China Province, which comprises Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China. Hon is the first Chinese to be promoted to a leading position in the Roman Curia administration. In a February 20, 2011 talk to Hong Kong Catholics, he said that he is hopeful that in this new position he will be able to act as a “bridge.” During the course of negotiations the Vatican should be careful not to make too many concessions for the sake of normalization of relations, otherwise there would be the danger of distorting the nature of the Church (AP Febr. 5, 2011; UCAN Jan. 11, 19, and 21, 2011; Vatican Information Service Dec. 23, 2010).
December 23, 2010:
Vincent Zhu Weifang officially installed as Bishop of Wenzhou
With this step, 83 year old Bishop Zhu is now recognized by the authorities as the Ordinary (Local Bishop) of the Diocese of Wenzhou (Zhejang Province). Bishop Zhu, together with about 30 priests, cares for the pastoral needs of the official part of the diocese, while 47 year old Coadjutor Bishop Shao Zhumin and 17 priests are active in the underground. Shao and his priests stayed away from the installation – according to sources of UCAN – since Zhu’s nomination took place with the approval of the official Bishops’ Conference; in addition, those of the underground are reportedly very disappointed with Zhu’s participation in the 8th National Assembly of Catholic Representatives of the Church in China. Bishop Zhu was consecrated privately, after both he and Bishop Shao had received their nominations from Rome at the same time in 2007. The Diocese of Wenzhou has approximately 120,000 Catholics (UCAN Dec. 23, 2010).
December 25, 2010:
Pope Benedict XVI on China at the annual “Urbi et Orbi” blessing
In his traditional Christmas blessing (“on the City and the whole world”), the Pope prayed that the birth of the Savior might strengthen the faith and the courage of the faithful in mainland China and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all (Vatican Information Service Dec. 25, 2010).
December 28, 2010:
Beijing rejects Papal Message
The Vatican must face the facts of religious freedom and the development of Catholicism in China, declared Ms. Jiang Yu, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry (SCMP Dec. 29, 2010).
December 29, 2010:
Awards conferred for “harmonious sites for religious activities”
Jia Qinglin, Chairman of the Political Consultative Conference, and other high ranking representatives of the Party and of the government, spoke at the meeting in Beijing at which the prizes were awarded. As Vice Premier Hui Liangyu declared, for some years now the country wide activities towards achieving “harmonious sites for religious activities” have met with wide acceptance from the Party and the government and have been supported by both the clergy and the faithful. The aim of the program is to achieve sites for religious activities that are patriotic, have approved bylaws, are cognizant of the laws, and are capable of repelling forces of infiltration.
Nationally, 674 religious sites, 151 religious congregations, and 323 personages from religious circles have been awarded this prize for their contribution in this field (Xinhua Dec. 29, 2010, as found at: www.sara.gov.cn).
December 31, 2010:
Writer Shi Tiesheng dies
The Beijing writer Shi Tiesheng 史铁生 (born 1951) often took as themes for his wide ranging narrative works the condition humaine, and frequently focused on socially marginal groups such as the handicapped. In doing so, Shi processed his own personal fate which had shackled him to a wheelchair since his early youth. Life and death are frequently recurring motifs in his writings. His reflections on the significance of human existence and his use of religious concepts have led principally to Christian, but also to Daoist and Buddhist interpretations of his work. His novella “The Strings of Fate” (“Ming ru qinxian”), about a blind zither player, created the pattern for Chen Kaige’s film Bian zou bian chang (Life on a String, 1991). In China, Shi Tiesheng’s work has won prestigious prizes for literature and selections have also been translated into English, French, and Japanese (www.xinhuanet.com, among others) (Barbara Hoster).
Translated from China heute 2010, No. 4, pp. 223-226, and China heute 2011, No. 1, pp. 16-18, by Fr. David Streit SVD.
If not stated otherwise, all media sources quoted refer to the year 2010.