Cardinal Parolin explains why Holy See is conducting dialogue with the Chinese gov't

Cardinal Parolin explains why Holy See is conducting dialogue with the Chinese gov't

By Fr. Paul Han Qingping/ lastampa.it

The interview talks given by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, on “why” and “how” the Holy See is carrying out dialogue with the Chinese Government, show the Holy See is truly moving along on the path of the genuine Tradition of the Church. It suggests we need to follow in the footsteps of St. Augustine of Hippo by standing up against the risk of being again infected and weakened by the Novatian and Donatist ideology, always threatening the life of the Church.

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Facing the recent criticism against the Holy See for its alleged “selling out” the Catholic Church in China, both the Church people and those in society at large cannot help asking these questions: In dealing with the Chinese Government, is the Holy See indeed ignorant of the real situation? Has it given up the principals and “abandoned” the suffering Church communities in exchange for some political gains? Or worse, is the Pope fooled by some “bad people” around him? Is the “statement” from the spokesperson of the Vatican trustworthy?...

The interview talks given by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State , on “why” and “how” the Holy See is carrying out dialogue with the Chinese Government, nevertheless, gave me a lot of encouragement and comfort, and at the same time made me feel more acutely the love and care of the Holy See for the Church and Society of China. From his honest and clear-minded interview talks, what I have heard is the method and attitude from the height of faith and pastoral care in treating the China Church issues, not taking politics and diplomacy as the sole means and purposes.

Just like his previous talks, Cardinal Parolin once again made it clear that the Holy See deeply understands not only the past and present sufferings of the Catholic Church in China and her heroic witnesses, but also knows her wounds and conflicts past down from history. Therefore, he emphasizes: “the path started with China through the current contacts is gradual and still exposed to many unforeseen events, as well as new possible emergencies. No one can say in conscience that they have perfect solutions for all problems. Time and patience are needed to heal the many personal wounds inflicted on each other within the communities”; “many wounds are still open today. To treat them, we need to use the balm of mercy”.

These talks made me immediately think of the the interview talks Pope Francis gave to Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, soon after he was elected: “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds”. In other words, what Cardinal Parolin explained regarding the Holy See’s China policy during his interview is by no means one person’s unique choice, nor is it the “prescription” just for the Church in China. Instead, it is the pastoral attitude and evangelization direction that the Church must adopt in today’s world. Otherwise, as Pope Francis reminds us in the same interview that if the Church locks itself up in small things and small-minded rules instead of proclaiming the most important good news that Jesus Christ has saved you, “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” In Evangelii gaudium published in 2015, he goes further and deeper in elaborating on the same ideas.

Having said this, I now want to address another matter of the fact: the main driving force behind the recent media attention on the Vatican’s China policy. As widely known, over the years, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, taking advantage of his position and connections with various media platforms, has been openly labeling the leadership of Pope Francis and his Secretary of the State Cardinal Parolin as “naive,” “may betray Jesus Christ,” and (in Vatican there are) “bad people,” etc etc..

With his most recent public disclosing of “confidential” information and willingness to be the obstacle, he has made his stand more clearly and vocally: Since what the Vatican has been doing with regard to the Catholic Church, especially the so-called underground communities, is wrong, bad, and even evil, I will not be shy and restrained anymore in fighting against it!

Upon reading the the statement and explanations of this nature, readers understandably will be greatly shocked and puzzled, and cannot help asking: What on earth is going on? Why do prominent ecclesiastical leaders and so-called missionary Catholic news agencies want to fight against the Church authorities in Rome? Is this action unprecedented in Church history?

For those who know some history of the Catholic Church, the answer to the last question is: Yes, throughout the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church, people and actions like these were many. The most similar examples I can think of are Novatian and Donatus of the early Church period.

Novatian was a Roman priest who in 251 opposed the election of Pope Cornelius, on the grounds that he was too lax in accepting the lapsed Christians. He even let himself be made a rival pope. He held that lapsed Christians, who had not maintained their confession of faith under persecution, may not be received again into communion with the church. A half century later, led by Bishop Donatus in North Africa, the so-called Donatists rejected the authority of bishops that were viewed as traditores (traitors). They also deemed the consecration of bishops at the hands of other “unworthy” bishops invalid.

To dispute this heterodox and schismatic belief and practice, St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, was actively involved for quite some years, but they didn’t cease to exist until the Muslim invasion of North Africa in later 7th century. In either case, the damage and pain caused by both Novatianists and Donatists to the Catholic Church then were heavy and long-lasting.

It is exactly owing to this historical background and painful lessons, in his Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons, and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, Pope Benedict XVI succinctly but pointedly writes:

The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic communion is not expressed without arduous efforts at reconciliation. Indeed, the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrong-doers, the forgetting of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of troubled hearts, all to be accomplished in the name of Jesus crucified and risen, can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints, born of painful or difficult experiences. These are urgent steps that must be taken if the bonds of communion between the faithful and the Pastors of the Church in China are to grow and be made visible. (no.6, para.4)

Then, to explain his point further, Pope Benedict XVI writes in the footnote 23:
“The lived experience of the ancient Church in time of persecution should be a source of enlightenment for all, as should the teaching given on this matter by the Church of Rome herself. Rome rejected the rigorist positions of the Novatians and the Donatists, and appealed for a generous attitude of pardon and reconciliation towards those who had apostatized during the persecutions (the “lapsi”), and wished to be readmitted to the communion of the Church.”

As a saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun! Throughout the centuries in Church history, various kinds of Novatianists and Donatists led by different “Novatian” and “Donatus” would come out. The reasons given and methods adopted could be different, but the purpose and result is the same: To create a church community independent of the Rome in the name of fidelity and loyalty according to his own perspective and understanding.

With regard to the painful and suffering experiences of the Catholic Church in China, the reason given by people attacking the Holy See is: the current China policy of the Holy See is bad and evil. The method adopted by them is: going public through the news media and declare to fight for truth and justice, with the purpose of obstructing the Sino-Vatican dialogue and negotiation process underway, and trying to create mistrust and division between the Pope and his collaborators as well.

Cardinal Parolin’s answers show the spirit and vision of faith that guide the Holy See in seeking solutions to the problems affecting the life of the Catholic Church in China. Precisely for this reason, we need to rely on the lessons learned from Church history to encourage and reassure us that the Holy See is truly moving along on the path of the genuine Tradition of the Church. At the same time, we need to follow in the footsteps of St. Augustine of Hippo by standing up against the risk of being again infected and weakened by the Novatian and Donatist ideology, always threatening the life of the Church.

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 13:34
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