Vatican Urges Chinese to Defend Faith With Sacrifice

11-Point Message Addresses Main Difficulties

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2011 ( The faith of the Church — defended even to the point of sacrifice — must be the foundation for Catholic communities in China, a Vatican commission is reminding the faithful there.

This affirmation is one of the messages in an 11-point statement released today, which summarizes the findings of a three-day meeting held this week by the commission on the Church in China.

Benedict XVI established the commission in 2007 and the Monday through Wednesday meeting was the group’s fourth plenary.

The commission report explained that members made a panoramic overview of the organization and situations of the dioceses in China.

“We noted the general climate of disorientation and anxiety about the future,” the report noted, as well as the “living faith and an experience of the Church, capable of dialoguing in a fruitful way with the social realities of each territory.”

Understanding difficulties

The Vatican commission called bishops to watch over education in the faith and to see to building places for worship and formation. It invited them to set an example of love, forgiveness and fidelity for their priests, and it affirmed the Church’s joy at the upcoming baptism of adults to be held on Easter.

The commission addressed the “sad episode” of episcopal ordinations without papal approval at the end of last year at Chengde.

“[T]he Holy See, on the basis of the information and testimonies it has so far received, while having no reason to consider it invalid, does regard it as gravely illegitimate, since it was conferred without the Papal mandate, and this also renders illegitimate the exercise of the ministry,” the report stated.

It added that “external pressures and constrictions could mean that excommunication is not automatically incurred” for the ordaining bishop and those ordained. But it still affirmed the “grave wound, perpetrated on the ecclesial body.”

The commission said each of the bishops involved is obliged to inform the Holy See and “find the means of explaining his position to the priests and faithful, renewing his profession of fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff, to help them to overcome their interior suffering and repair the external scandal caused.”

Still, the Vatican note affirmed, “We are close to you in these difficult times. We invite priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful to understand the difficulties of their bishops, to encourage them, to support them by their solidarity and prayer.”

Government cooperation

The commission acknowledged that choosing pastors for vacant dioceses is an “urgent necessity, and, at the same time, a source of deep concern.”

“The commission strongly hopes that there will not be new wounds to ecclesial communion, and asks the Lord for strength and courage for all of the persons involved,” the report said. It cited Benedict XVI’s wish that an “accord can be reached with the government.”

The commission added: “We make these desires ours and we look with trepidation and fear to the future: we know that it is not entirely in our hands and we launch an appeal so that the problems do not grow and that the divisions are not deepened, at the expense of harmony and peace.”

Desire for unity

The group also noted problems regarding boundaries for ecclesiastical regions. And it looked at the issue of formation for seminarians and women religious, acknowledging the difficulties and expressing appreciation for seminarians’ “examples of courage and of patience.”

The commission called for prayer and assured the Chinese faithful of its own members’ daily prayer, “in particular for those who are confronted by every sort of grave difficulty, and for all the sick and suffering of your nation.”

Regarding the group’s meeting with the Pope, the report noted that “His Holiness recognized the desire for unity with the See of Peter and with the Universal Church which the Chinese faithful never cease to manifest, notwithstanding being in the midst of many difficulties and afflictions.”

“The faith of the Church, set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to be defended even at the price of sacrifice, is the foundation on which the Catholic communities in China should grow in unity and in communion,” the report added.

It concluded: “The Holy Father then recalled the importance of formation, in particular spiritual formation, in order that the internal life of the Christian, educated by personal and liturgical prayer, may be able to confront the challenges of the current moment.

“Finally, entrusting the entire flock of the Chinese faithful to the intercession of Mary, Most Holy, Queen of China, he renewed the urgent invitation to all the Church to dedicate May 24, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to prayer for the Church in China.”

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