SHOULD THE POPE BE FREE TO ‘SACK’ BISHOPS? SCOTT P RICHERT REFLECTS ON CALLS FOR A MORE POWERFUL PAPACY P12
Authorities in China tighten grip on bishops
BY ANNA ARCO
RELATIONS between China and the Vatican are in danger of disintegrating after authorities forced bishops loyal to the Pope to attend a meeting of the state-run Church.
Dozens of Chinese bishops were taken to Beijing against their will to take part in the National Congress of Chinese Catholic Representatives to vote for new leaders of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops.
The latter group acts as China’s bishops’ conference but is state-imposed and is not in full communion with the Church. Pope Benedict XVI has said both groups have a purpose which is “incompatible with Catholic doctrine”.
China’s National Congress of Catholics has not met for four years because of opposition from bishops obedient to the Holy See.
Although some bishops went willingly to the meeting, which took place at the beginning of the week, AsiaNews, a news agency which has sources on the ground, reported that others suffered from forceful abductions. A number of bishops have also disappeared to avoid arrest and forcible transfer to the event.
Bishop Feng Xinmao of Hengshui, a city in the province of Hebei, was taken by a group of about 100 police officers and state agents who fought against priests and faithful who were trying to free him. The bishop, who had been held in isolation for some days previously, was rescued from police custody by the faithful before being re-arrested and taken to Beijing on Monday after a siege which lasted several hours.
Another bishop from the same region, Bishop Li Lianghui Cangzhou, has gone into hiding to avoid attending the Beijing meeting. The police threatened his diocese, saying that it would hunt the bishop “like a dangerous criminal” if he refused to give himself up.
During the Beijing meeting this week state-backed bishops were expected to vote on the national president of the Patriotic Association as well as the president of the official bishops’ conference. The assembly represents the “sovereign body” of the official Church, in which bishops are only a minority among lay people and government officials who make ecclesial decisions. Elections are rigged and participants in the conference are told what to do and who to vote for in advance by the Patriotic Association assembly chairman Liu Bainian.
The action by the authorities came just days after Pope Benedict called for prayers for the Church in China, saying Chinese Catholics were “going through a particularly difficult time”.
He said: “We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to sustain all the Chinese bishops. We also entrust to the Virgin Mary all the Catholics of that beloved country, that, through her intercession, they may be able to live an authentic Christian life in communion with the universal church, contributing in this way also to the harmony and common good of their noble people.”
Relations between the underground Church and the official church appeared to be improving until the end of last month when the state church went ahead with installing Fr Joseph Guo Jincai as Bishop of Chengde, also in Hebei province. Eight loyal bishops were forced to attend the ceremony while the Vatican condemned the action, saying that it constituted a “a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and a grave violation of Catholic discipline”. It was the first unsanctioned ordination since 2006 and represents a breach in ongoing negotiations in the uneasy relationship between the Vatican and the Communist regime.
Pope Benedict, in a 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, indicated a willingness to negotiate with the state.
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December 10 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Pope Benedict XVI meets an unnamed Iraqi Christian who was treated in Rome for injuries sustained in a terrorist siege of a Baghdad cathedral Photo: CNS
Pope meets survivors of Baghdad massacre
BY STAFF REPORTER
POPE BENEDICT XVI has met two dozen Iraqis who were injured when their cathedral in Baghdad was attacked in October.
The Italian foreign ministry arranged for 26 injured Iraqis, including three children, and 21 accompanying family members to fly to Rome. The injured were treated at the Gemelli Hospital and their family members were housed in apartments belonging to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, which operates the hospital.
Nicola Cerbino, hospital spokesman, said that only two of the injured were still hospitalised,
but they were well enough to travel with their family members to the Vatican for the brief audience with the Pope.
The entire Iraqi group – close to 50 people – will remain guests of the university until mid-December, Mr Cerbino said. After that, the Italian foreign minister will help them return home or settle elsewhere.
Fifty-eight people died in the attack on the Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad on October 31 after military officials tried to end a terrorist siege of the church.
Meanwhile, the killings of Christians continues in Iraq; where Islamists linked to alQaeda have threatened to annihilate them. An elderly Christian couple were killed in their home on Sunday night in Baghdad, the latest in a string of attacks.
Hikmat Sammak and his wife, Samira, were stabbed to death in their Baladiyat neighbourhood, a predominantly Shia area.
The couple had sold their house and gone to live in Ainkawa-Erbil in the north, where it is generally considered safer for Christians. They had returned to Baghdad days ago to finalise the transaction and sell their furniture.
Their deaths came on the same day that Benedict XVI made an appeal for those who are suffering from violence and discrimination, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. The latest murders have sparked a fresh exodus of Christians from the urban centres around Baghdad to Kurdishmajority regions in the north.
The Azzaman newspaper claims that 500 families are moving into the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. “In Sulaymaniyah alone, at least 85 families arrived within two weeks,” AsiaNews reported. “The displaced people leave behind them homes, possessions and their work, as well as parishes and monasteries, among the oldest in Christendom.”
Authorities have reportedly promised fleeing Christians a stipend of just over £250, a gesture seen as insufficient since it would not cover even a month’s rent in the north. Families fleeing persecution in Mosul and Baghdad are also to receive emergency aid from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The charity for oppressed Christians has agreed payments of £12,650 for victims of the cathedral massacre while £8,450 will be sent to poverty-stricken Christians from Baghdad who have fled to the Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah.
In Zakho diocese, in the far north of the country, ACN is giving £21,100 to provide food packages for Christian families.
Archbishop cancels lecture after threat of violent student protests
BY ED WEST
THE ARCHBISHOP of Madrid was forced to cancel a speech at the city’s university last week after police said they could not protect him from threats of violent protests.
Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela was scheduled to give a lecture on “The God who is unknown to 21st-century Spaniards”. But several days before the planned event activist groups began calling for it to be disrupted. The
Spanish government then said it could not guarantee the cardinal’s security, and Church officials decided to cancel the speech.
Afterwards the Catholic radio network Cadena de Ondas Populares Españolas criticised the “aggressive secularism” of activists in an editorial on its website.
It said: “What happened here is another example of the cultural paradigm that seeks to impose aggressive secularism.”
It denounced activists’ “efforts to silence anyone who would speak of God and the meaning of man’s existence”, and said: “There is the added irony that freedom and truth have become a nuisance at the place which is supposed to be the pillar of knowledge, the university.” Because of these threats, it said, students will not hear the cardinal speak “about ‘the God who is unknown’ to the Spaniards of our day, like St Paul did at the Areopagus of Athens”.
It said an “entire democratic system has caved in to the threats of violence, refusing to guarantee freedom and order on the university campus”.
The cardinal has been a vocal critic of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s government, which has introduced among the most liberal divorce and abortion laws in the world. Last month he deplored the “revival of radical secularism”, which he compared to the worst excesses of 1930s Communists.
Fr Spencer clear to be made Venerable
Dahl’s daughter may join Benedictines
BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE VATICAN has finally issued a certificate of validity allowing the Cause for canonisation of Fr Ignatius Spencer to progress to the next level, it emerged this week.
As reported in The Catholic Herald, the Vatican has concluded that Fr Spencer, a 19th-century convert who is related to Princes
William and Harry through their mother Diana, lived a life of “heroic virtue”.
But the decision by a committee of cardinals to now issue the certificate means that Pope Benedict XVI might publicly declare Fr Spencer to be Venerable as early as this month. It also means that the search will begin for the two miracles needed to beatify Fr Spencer and then declare him a saint.
Fr Spencer, a Passionist, is buried in St Anne’s church, Merseyside, near to Blessed Dominic Barberi, and Mother Elizabeth Prout.
BY STAFF REPORTER
THE DAUGHTER of the renowned children’s author Roald Dahl and the Oscarwinning actress Patricia Neal has announced her intention to become a Benedictine nun.
Miss Dahl, also the mother of the model Sophie Dahl, said she hoped to join the Regina Laudis convent in Bethlehem, Connecticut, where she has been staying for a month. The author has been following much of the nuns’ routine, and while she is exempt from Matins, she joins them in their prayers.
When she was asked whether the monastery was a way of escaping from the world, she said: “Of course it isn’t. I had an enormous God experience as the nuns sang Vespers.
“I felt as if a boulder had been pushed off my heart and it was open to joy.”
Her mother died in the convent, converting on her deathbed.
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