A Voice from an Absent China

Wanxian Bishop Tells What´s Happening

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WANXIAN, China, OCT. 11, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFides).- As happened during the Synod of Asia in 1998, there are no bishops from mainland China taking part in the current Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Bishop Joseph Cheng of Tainan, Taiwan, is attending. But the closest the mainland bishops came to the assembly may have been a Chinese version of the synod´s «instrumentum laboris,» or working document, that they received.

To get an idea of what´s going on in China today, the Vatican agency Fides asked Bishop Joseph Xu Zhixuan, of the Diocese of Wanxian in central China, to comment on his situation. Part of his response follows:

«The Wanxian Diocese has 13 parish churches. Five of them, including the cathedral, will be submerged when the Three Gorges dam on the River Chang is completed. The $200,000 compensation offered by the Chinese government is insufficient: The diocese will need at least $3.4 million to rebuild the churches. …

«Since the death of Bishop Mathias Duan Yinming, I have tried to carry on leading the diocesan mission along the lines traced by Bishop Duan, who was for us a model and an example.

«I strive to carry out my ministry according to the principles of the Church: to tend to the local community in communion with the Successor of Peter. In China, as you know, the situation is unusual: Very often we are unable to act as we would wish. So we try at least to do everything possible to guarantee the fundamental elements of diocesan life: liturgy, catechesis, pastoral activity.

«The duty of ´tending´ the diocesan flock is full of concrete daily duties: supporting diocesan structures; forming priests and religious; finding financial help. We have guest priests and women religious from abroad teaching in our seminary and novitiate houses.

«We organize regular periods of spiritual exercises — I have just concluded a diocesan retreat. With the limited funds received, we have begun rebuilding our parishes.

«The most urgent problems are these in fact: formation of young priests and religious [and] solving problems caused by the Three Gorges dam project that has forced more than a million people out of their homes. …

«But our most important ministry is ´to serve the truth.´ We must bear witness to the Gospel with courage, valuing our ecclesial traditions. To serve the truth also means to support justice.

«For example: I am convinced that we must support the war against terrorism, because it is a question of justice. At the same time, we must avoid provoking acts of revenge, which would cause innocent victims.»

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