Last week I joined 50 others at St Peters Church in Phibsborough to hear Fr Joseph Loftus CM reflect on recent developments in the China where he has spent the past twenty years.
Recently the Vatican entered a historic agreement with the Chinese government about the appointment of bishops. It accepts that the government will put forward three names and the Vatican will accept one or reject all.
Those among China’s ten million Catholics who accept the government’s role in guiding the Church see this as good news. It shows that both sides now recognise each other’s existence and this brings some order into a situation where some bishops were recognised only by Rome and others only by the government.
However, for those who do not recognise the Government’s right to have a say in religious matters, it is a betrayal of the twenty or so bishops who saw themselves as showing their loyalty to the Pope by avoiding government control. Many of these are in jail and being told they must conform now that the Pope has entered into an agreement with the government.
To add to the confusion, there is at present a nation–wide crack-down on all religions in China. Christians have had outside statues and crosses forcibly removed and even entire church buildings demolished. Some will say these anti-religious displays are only local and not everywhere, but it is not a reassuring atmosphere in which to have ‘friendly’ Vatican-Beijing talks.
Fr Joseph did his best to explain this puzzling situation and how the Christian faith still means so much to millions of Catholics in China today.