Pope’s Meeting with Suzhou Bishop Raises Questions

Central News Agency (CNA), via Radio Taiwan International (RTI), →quotes Taiwan’s foreign ministry as saying that the diplomats were closely following developments after Pope Francis had held the first public reception for a mainland Chinese pilgrimage group, led by Suzhou bishop Xu Honggen (徐宏根), on October 5. According to the report, the foreign ministry added that the Vatican, as a non-secular state, remained “absolutely concerned” about the treatment of mainland Chinese underground church members.

RTI CNA refers to a Chinese-language report by the Catholic Asian News network (UCAN), →here  in English, on October 13. According to UCA, the event met a mixed reception among the open and underground Catholic communities in China due to ongoing talks between the Vatican and China’s ruling Communist Party that have divided the faithful.

The public reception (including a souvenir photo with the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square) was seen as an indication that the relationship between mainland China and the Vatican were developing further.

Apparently quoting the Taiwanese foreign ministry again, the RTI report points out that there was an alliance between the Republic of China (i. e. Taiwan) regarding religious freedom, democracy, human rights, and humanitarian help, and that in September, → Taiwanese vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) had visited the Vatican on invitation, to take part in the → canonization of Mother Teresa.

→ The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that there has been a long-standing friendship between the Republic of China and the Vatican, that the bilateral friendship was stable and strong, with close exchanges, and frequent high-ranking bilateral meetings between the two sides.

外交部表示,中華民國與教廷邦誼源遠流長,雙邊邦誼穩固、交流密切,多年來雙方高層及重要官員互訪頻繁。

According to the → “state administration for religious affairs of P.R.C” (SARA, 国家宗教事务局) website,

In the morning of April 20 [2006], Father Xu Honggen of the Catholic Suzhou parish was ordained bishop in the → Yangjiaqiao Catholic Church. The → Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China Vice Chairman and Bishop of Linyi diocese in Shandong province, Fang Xingyao, Jiangsu Province Nanjing diocese Bishop Lu Xinping, Shandong Qingdao diocese Bishop Li Mingshu, Shandong Zhoucun diocese Bishop Ma Xuesheng and Shandong Jinan diocese Bishop assistant Bishop Zhang Xianwang conducted the ceremony. More than fourty priests from Suzhou diocese and other provincial cities were also on the platform, with nearly 3,000 Catholics attending. — → Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China Chairman Bishop Fu Tieshan and others sent congratulatory messages.  Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association Secretary General Liu Yuanlong, Deputy Secretary General Chen Shujie, were present to congratulate. The ordination was conducted in accordance with the Bishop Conference of the Catholic Church in China’s “Regulations Concerning the Choice of Bishops” and the “Holy Order of Ordination of Bishops”, with the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China’s document of approval being read out. The newly ordained Bishop Xu Honggen swore that he would conscientiously carry out his duties as Bishop, lead all the priests, monks, nuns and church members in the diocese, comply with the state constitution, protect national unity, social stability and unity, and contribute to comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society and to the building of a socialist, harmonious society. The ordainment ceremony was dignified and solemn, warm-hearted and peaceful.

祝圣仪式由中国天主教主教团副主席、山东省临沂教区主教房兴耀主礼,江苏省南京教区陆新平主教、山东省青岛教区李明述主教、山东省周村教区马学圣主教和山东省济南教区张宪旺助理主教襄礼。苏州教区和有关省市40多位神甫同台共祭,近3000名天主教徒参加了祝圣典礼。中国天主教爱国会主席、中国天主教主教团代主席傅铁山主教等致贺电,中国天主教爱国会秘书长刘元龙、中国天主教爱国会副秘书长陈书杰神甫到场祝贺。主教祝圣仪式按照中国天主教主教团《关于选圣主教的规定》和《主教圣秩授予典礼》有关程序进行,宣读了中国天主教主教团批准书。新任主教徐宏根宣誓要善尽主教的职责,带领本教区全体神甫、修士、修女和教友,遵守国家宪法,维护国家的统一和社会安定团结,为全面建设小康社会和构建社会主义和谐社会贡献力量。祝圣典礼庄严隆重、热烈祥和。

Xu Honggen, born in April 1962, graduated from → Shanghai Sheshan Monestary in 1990. He was ordained by former Suzhou diocesan Bishop Ma Longyao as a priest the same year. From 1994 to 1999, he went to America to study at → St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church in New York and the 联合神学院 in Chicago. He earned theological and classical master’s degrees and is currently [i. e. 2006] the Jiangsu Catholic educational administration’s deputy director.

徐宏根主教生于1962年4月,1990年毕业于上海佘山修院,同年由原苏州教区马龙麟主教祝圣为神甫。徐宏根主教1994年至1999年赴美国纽约若瑟修院、芝加哥联合神学院学习,先后获神学硕士、圣经学硕士学位,现任江苏省天主教教务委员会副主任。

According to Vatican Radio‘s German-language → website at the time (April 2006), Xu Honggen’s ordination was approved both by the Vatican, and the Chinese government. Oddly, Radio Vatican spotted the diocese in Hong Kong.

The BBC Mandarin service quotes UCAN as writing that this public meeting with Xu Honggen and the pilgrims was considered neglicance of the underground church. Members of the underground church had said the event confirmed that even though they were loyal to the Vatican, they got very little support.

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Related

→ Inexhaustible Wisdom, Febr 17, 2016
→ Unachieved Dream, Mar 13, 2013
→ Hao Jinli, 1916 – 2011, Mar 28, 2011

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