FaithWorld

Vatican excommunicates pro-govt Chinese Catholic bishop, criticizes Beijing

(Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009./David Gray)

A Chinese bishop ordained without papal approval has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, the Vatican has said, bringing relations between the Vatican and Beijing to a new low. In a statement branding Thursday’s ordination illegitimate, the Vatican said Pope Benedict “deplores” the way communist authorities are treating Chinese Catholics who want to remain faithful to Rome instead of to the state-backed Church.

China’s state-sanctioned Catholic Church ordained Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop in Shantou city in southern Guangdong province on Thursday despite warnings he would not be recognized because the city has a Vatican-approved bishop.

“Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him … and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of diocese,” the Vatican said on Saturday.

Chinese Catholics, believed to number between 8 million and 12 million, are divided between those who are members of the Church backed by the Communist Party and those loyal to the pope.

In its statement, the Vatican said Beijing authorities had coerced some bishops loyal to the Holy See to attend the ordination service against their will and praised them for trying to resist. A source in China said last week the bishops were accompanied to the event by police.

China says everything normal at restive Tibetan temple

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(A Tibetan in Nepal on a 24-hour hunger strike in Kathmandu April 18, 2011, to express solidarity with victims of a Chinese crackdown last month/Navesh Chitrakar)

China has said everything was “normal” at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery after the Dalai Lama urged restraint in a stand-off between security forces and Tibetans at the temple in southwest China. “According to what we understand, over the past few days the life and Buddhist activities of the monks at the Kirti monastery are all normal. Social order there is also normal. Material supplies in the temple are totally sufficient,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing.

“The Kirti temple’s administration and local police a long time ago set up a police-temple joint patrol team. The aim was to prevent people of uncertain identity from entering the temple. Relations between the police and the temple have always been harmonious,” Hong added on Tuesday without elaborating.

Vatican warns China bishops over illegal ordination

(Christmas Mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009/David Gray )

(Christmas Mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009/David Gray )

Bishops in China who are ordained without papal authorisation inflict a “grave wound” on the entire Catholic Church and should not let themselves be manipulated by the government, the Vatican has said. The Vatican issued the warning on Thursday after a meeting of a special commission that studies the situation of Catholics in China, who are not allowed to recognise the pope’s authority but forced to be members of a state-backed Church.

Last November, the Vatican condemned the ordination without papal permission of Reverend Joseph Guo Jincai, a member of the state-backed Church in Chengde. For a period before that, China and the Vatican had reached an agreement that the Vatican would give tacit but not explicit approval to some of the appointments of bishops by the government-backed Church after discreet consultations.

It said at the time various bishops loyal to the pope had come under pressure to attend Guo’s ordination ceremony.

Beijing “house church” faces eviction in tense times in China

(Christians attend Sunday service at Shouwang Church in Beijing's Haidian district October 3, 2010. Shouwang is a "house church", a church that is not officially sanctioned by the government and houses smaller congregations. These churches are reported to be getting increasingly popular in the Chinese capital. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic)

(Christians attend Sunday service at Shouwang Church in Beijing in this file photo from October 3, 2010/Petar Kujundzic)

Tears flowed at one of Beijing’s biggest “house” churches when some 300 Chinese Christians prayed on the last Sunday before they face eviction from their makeshift place of worship, pressed by officials wary about religion outside of their grip. The Shouwang Church, with about 1,000 members, is one of the biggest Protestant congregations in Beijing that has expanded beyond the confines of churches registered and overseen by the ruling Communist Party’s religious affairs authorities.

But the Party is wary about any potential unrest, and this gathering of neat middle-class and student Christians has been told by its landlord that it can no longer worship at the “Old Story Restaurant,” with its walls lined with pictures of Chinese Party leaders shaking hands with former U.S. presidents.

China says Dalai Lama must reincarnate, can’t pick successor

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(The Dalai Lama during a talk at Mumbai University, February 18, 2011/Danish Siddiqui)

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, does not have a right to choose his successor any way he wants and must follow the historical and religious tradition of reincarnation, a Chinese official said on Monday.

It is unclear how the 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in India and is revered by many Tibetans, plans to pick his successor. He has said that the succession process could break with tradition — either by being hand-picked by him or through democratic elections. But Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet, said that the Dalai Lama had no right to abolish the institution of reincarnation, underscoring China’s hardline stance on one of the most sensitive issues for the restless and remote region.

Hungary’s communist leader Kádár summoned priest before dying

kadarHungary’s last communist leader János Kádár met a priest at his own request shortly before he died, former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh revealed on Tuesday, two decades after Kadar’s death.

“Aunt Mariska (Kádár‘s wife) called me: ‘My husband wants a priest’ she said,” Németh, who headed the country’s last Communist-era government in 1988-1990, told Reuters. (Photo: Hungarian leader János Kádár in London, November 1, 1985/B. Smith)

“I still remember the Catholic priest whom I found, he was a short man called Bíró, I think,” he added.

Cuba’s Catholic Church to open first new seminary in decades

havana cathedral (Photo: Havana’s Catholic cathedral, June 14, 2010/Desmond Boylan)

The Roman Catholic Church will open on Wednesday its first new seminary in Cuba in more than half a century in a further sign of its improving relations with the island’s communist-led government.

The seminary replaces a similar school for future priests that was  expropriated by Cuba’s communist authorities in 1966 and transformed first into a military barracks, then a police academy.

Catholic officials said Cuban President Raul Castro was expected to attend the inauguration — reflecting the more cordial relations between the Church and the government. Castro turned to the Church this year to serve as an internal interlocutor as he faced growing international pressure over political prisoners and human rights.

Analysis: Catholic Church raises hopes of role in Cuban change

cuba 1The Roman Catholic Church has won praise for securing the release of political prisoners in Cuba, raising hopes it can do more to broker reforms on the communist-ruled island and perhaps even help improve U.S.-Cuba ties.

Sidelined for decades by the communist authorities until Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998, the Church has now carved out a visible role as an interlocutor with the government, and as a possible catalyst of change. (Photo: Released prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya in a wheelchair at Santa Rita Church as he joins the weekly protest of the Ladies in White, a group made up of imprisoned family members, in Havana June 20, 2010./Desmond Boylan)

Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega raised his voice earlier this year, asking President Raul Castro to accelerate economic reforms and end government harassment of the dissident group Ladies in White during their peaceful street protests.

Taiwan Buddhist charity Tzu Chi sets up shop in atheist China

charity 1China’s ruling Communist Party has a testy and often bitter relationship with religion.  During the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, temples and churches were shut, statues smashed, scriptures burned, and monks and nuns forced to return to secular life, often after receiving a good beating or even jail. (Photo: Suzhou, June 10, 2005/Thierry Roge)

While the officially atheist Communist Party hardly pushes religion these days, its attitude has softened considerably, though rights groups frequently complain of sometimes harsh restrictions on Christians and Muslims especially.

On Friday, the Taiwanese Buddhist charity the Tzu Chi Foundation opened its Chinese chapter, in the historic eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, perhaps better known in the outside world for its stunning gardens. Officials say Tzu Chi is the first overseas non-governmental organisation to receive the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ blessing to operate in China. Normally they have to register with the Commerce Ministry as businesses.

Report from Tibet: “We believe in Buddhism, Chinese believe in nothing”

lhasaTibet is richer and more developed than it has ever been, its people healthier, more literate, and better dressed and fed.  But the bulging supermarkets, snappy new airports and gleaming restored temples of this remote and mountainous region cannot hide broad contradictions and a deep sense of unhappiness among many Tibetans that China is sweeping away their culture. (Photo: A Tibetan woman spins her praying wheel as she walks around the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, March 10, 2010/China Daily)

Beijing has spent freely to bring development to restless Tibet, part of a grand strategy to win over the proudly Buddhist people by improving their standard of living.  Lhasa is starting to look like any other middle-tier Chinese city, with the same fast food outlets and mobile phone stores, and the same unimaginative architecture.

Large sums have also gone into restoring monasteries and temples, the centre of life for devoutly Buddhist Tibetans, bolstering government claims that China respects religious rights.