ROME, SEPT. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The four Chinese bishops Benedict XVI invited to Rome to attend the Synod on the Eucharist have not yet received passports or permits to leave the country, reported AsiaNews.
The prelates invited to the Oct. 2-23 synod are Archbishop Anthony Li Duan of Xian, Bishops Louis Jin Luxian of Shanghai and Luke Li Jingfeng of Fengxiang — all recognized by the government — and “underground” Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar.
Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, said that mainland Catholics saw Benedict XVI’s invitation as a “friendly gesture.” And that the government is still negotiating with the Vatican.
However, Liu Bainian, chairman of the government-approved Church, or Patriotic Association, criticized the Holy See for maintaining ties with Taiwan, and said it was “discourteous” to release the invitation list without consulting with Beijing first.
Members of the government made it understood that the strongest opposition to the bishops’ participation in the synod came from the Patriotic Association.
Bishop Wei Jingyi, 47, has requested a passport every day since receiving the Pope’s letter of invitation.
His request has been refused, and local government officials said again today that he will be granted neither a permit, nor a passport. They also said that “China and the Vatican agreed upon” this decision, reported AsiaNews.
Local authorities explained to that “everything depends on diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican; as long as there are no relations, it will be difficult to arrange such visits.”
The bishop wrote to Benedict XVI to thank him for the honor bestowed on him and the people of China by the invitation.
Bishop Luxian, 89, has also not yet received his passport, but told AsiaNews that in his case, his health may be the ultimate deciding factor.
The prelate was diagnosed a year and a half ago with angina, a throat infection, which prevents him from traveling.
Regarding the others, Bishop Luxian said Ye “is still deliberating with the Holy See to find a solution. There is still hope, though very little.”
The prelate said that the delays and difficulties with which Beijing responds to such requests depends on mutual incomprehension between China and the Holy See: “The government does not understand the Vatican; the Vatican does not understand the Chinese government.”
The bishop of Shanghai announced that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C., is to travel to Shanghai at the end of October.
“I truly hope that this visit will smooth out a lot of incomprehension,” he told AsiaNews. “Still, you must pray for China: politics is powerful, but God is even more powerful.”
A religious matter
Archbishop Anthony Li Duan, archbishop of Xian, 78, also said that his health prevents him from traveling: “I have a tumor which prevents me from even standing up.”
He also added that the government has not given any word. “It’s all quite unclear to me,” he said. “I told the authorities: The Pope is universal pastor. He invites Chinese bishops from all over: mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, … and the Synod is not a political matter, but religious.”
Bishop Jingfeng, 84, the most hopeful of the four, said that he has a good relationship with the authorities of Shaanxi.
Representatives of the provincial government will pay him a visit Saturday on the occasion of China’s National Day. He will take advantage of the visit to make his request.