SHANGHAI – On the last Monday of April, this city’s main Cathedral was filled with believers. They had come to honor the memory of the man who had done more than anyone to improve relations between the Vatican and China’s so-called “Patriotic” Catholic Church.
Bishop Jin Luxian died last month at the age of 97. He had done his novitiate preparation for the priesthood in France, returning to his native China in 1951, only to be imprisoned five years later by Mao’s regime — and would go on to spend a total of 18 years in prison and nine in a labor camp.
Despite all of this, Jin joined the official “patriotic” Church once he got out of prison in 1982, and worked for years trying to bring it closer together with the clandestine communities of Catholics loyal to Rome. The estimated 10 million Catholics in China are split between those with allegiance to the Pope and those that practice under the auspices of the Patriotic Church that is sanctioned by the Communist Party.
In 2005, Monsignor Jin successfully pushed for the ordination of an assistant bishop, who was approved both by Rome and the Chinese authorities. This event marked the beginning of a relative thawing of relations between Beijing and the Holy See.
But that compromise came undone in November 2010 in the northeastern city of Chengde, when the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association resumed the ordination of bishops who had not been previously approved by the Pope. Members of the clergy who were faithful to Rome were forcibly taken to religious services by State security forces.
On the one hand, Beijing argues that the ordination process must be accelerated, especially in dioceses where there is no bishop. Roman Catholics, on the other hand, see this move as a hardening of Beijing’s stance. What they are not sure about is whether this is part of a more general control over human rights militants, or a stratagem on the part of the officials in charge of Catholic affairs, who fear their power would collapse if the improved relationship between Rome and Beijing solidified.
A telling sign of the growing tension was evident at the memorial service for Jin, which was led by a simple priest. Indeed, Ma Daqin, the new auxilliary bishop of Shanghai, has been under house arrest since last summer. During his own ordination ceremony on July 7, Ma had refused blessings from two bishops who had been imposed by the state-sanctioned Church.
It was during this same ceremony in July that Ma had announced he would no longer be part of the body in the Communist Party that controls the Catholic Church. “Thunderous applause among young people, livid faces among officials!” a European witness recalls. All officials from the Communist Party promptly left the Cathedral. Shortly after the service, the new bishop was forcibly taken to the Sheshan seminary, 30 kilometers outside the city center, where he has been detained since.
The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association thought they had found in Ma Daqin a consensual, even docile new bishop. Contrary to someone like Msgr Jin, who had spent 27 years in prison and saw any changes as improvements on the harsh situation of the past, the new generation has raised expectations, explains one Western expert on Catholicism in China. “There has been an unaccounted for tightening in the State policy since 2010, and the young generation is making clear they do not want to go any further in that direction,” he says.
Jin’s last wish was to leave behind him an appeased community. Last year, in an interview with Le Monde, he refused to make any comment on this reactionary movement, though he did express concern for younger generations of clergymen.
His successor remains cut off from the rest of the world. On a visit to his seminary last month, one of his friends explained that Monsignor Ma could have his meals with the other seminarians, but had to say Mass on his own.
“The freedom of Catholics is subjected to their obedience to the system,” his friend remarked. Being allowed to visit the bishop on house-arrest, he confirmed that Ma Daqin was still allowed to manage his account on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, on which verses of the Gospel are sometimes published. The bishop has been allowed a few visitors, but no foreigners, as it would “make things even worse for him.”
Since last summer, the government in Beijing has been undergoing a handover of power, while in Rome a new Pope was elected this spring. But if the new Chinese President Xi Jinping has been talking about reforming the party internally, he has not given any indication on the future of Catholics in China. As a priest explained to us, “the relationship with the Roman Church falls within the scope of Foreign Policy, and Xi Jinping’s stance on this is still unclear.”
As a friend of the new bishop, he hopes “the government will be more open on this and let Msgr Ma go back to Shanghai.”
For weeks, the government had been aware that Jin was dying, and intentionally kept his successor away from his Cathedral. Sources say he has now been removed even further, to the capital, Beijing.
Read the article in the original language.
Photo by – Heurik
Ireland and the presidential election… in China
By Neil Collins and Yu-Wen Chen
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
The Election that will take place in China tomorrow could have profound effects on Ireland’s prosperity, write Neil Collins and Yu-Wen Chen
TOMORROW an important election takes place abroad and, while the outcome is still unclear, it will have profound effects on Ireland’s prosperity and the prospects for world peace.
The new president’s attitude to free trade and the use of military force in places far from his capital are critical. Fortunately, in his recent visit to Ireland the likely victor spoke glowingly of the relations between his country and ours. Strangely, however, the election has hardly been covered by the overseas media.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will begin to undergo a leadership transition in the 18th party congress. Some members of the politburo, the most powerful institution in China, will retire. Among them is the current general secretary and president Hu Jinto. Hu is expected to be replaced by Xi Jinping, the current vice-president — yet another politician to have played hurling in Croke Park.
Xi is expected to become the new general secretary of the party at the congress, paving the way for him to become president in 2013. He will be taking over one of the most powerful jobs in the world but, unlike his American counterpart also being elected this week, we know very little about the dynamics of the election.
Predictably, it has featured photo opportunities abroad, trumpeting of policy successes at home, and relentless campaigning. Nevertheless, the process is opaque. Probably, the most important thing about it is that it is happening at all. When many other one-party, autocratic states have witnessed violent and unpredictable regime change, the people’s republic will see one set of leaders step aside gracefully after ruling for 10 years to allow the next generation to take over.
The history of China going back to imperial times has seldom seen such an orderly transition. Assuming the “mandate of heaven” has frequently been a gory business, but Xi Jinping and his generation of Chinese leaders have seen enough turmoil to value an orderly transition. While much is made of their status as “princelings”, the privileged offspring of former CCP champions, Xi and the others are also products of the Cultural Revolution, a time of anarchy and terror to match the French Revolution. Their parents were bullied, exiled, and even murdered in a period of political mayhem that still tutors their outlook.
Control is important so competition must be managed to give the appearance of “harmony”, the CCP’s mantra under Hu Jintao the outgoing top man. The harmony is deceptive. There is room for ambitious political figures to fight their way up the political ladder. Factional politics is rife in China. The party likes to stress that it has a collective leadership nowadays. But the essential meaning of that term is a balance of factions.
Ambitious individuals will have to ally with like-minded CCP members and appeal to powerful interests outside. Collective leadership implies infighting among factions, and hence policy decisions to some extent are made through collective efforts.
The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 and its early leaders were feted for their part in the nation’s war of independence. Like Ireland in the 1960s, new politicians have come to the fore who were not directly involved in the struggle for freedom. Their ideological grounding is less communist and more pragmatic than that of the founders of the state though, like our own politicians, they have to be deferential to the rhetoric of “the dead generations”.
Xi and his fellow leaders now have to appear both close to the people and competent at managing the government. Food safety, house prices, and job security must be watched carefully and blatant corruption tackled with public fervour.
The Bloomsbury Auctions sale of artefacts from 20th century China includes a vivid red poster featuring a portrait of Mao above a group of armed Irish rebels, with the Tricolour flying alongside the flag of China.
The poster refers to the “54th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising” and the first anniversary of the “Historic Ninth National Congress of the Communist Party of China”.
Although no date is mentioned, both anniversaries occurred in 1970. It has not yet been possible to establish who produced the poster or where it was used.
During Mao’s rule, lurid propaganda flourished and was presented in many formats including posters, films, books, drawings, handicrafts, paintings, photographs, paper currency, prints and sculptures.
The “Irish” poster is part of a collection of propaganda material amassed by an American collector. A spokeswoman for Bloomsbury Auctions said “the collection was put together over many years and the collector travels to China regularly and buys there too”.
But the Irish poster is puzzling the auctioneers who specialise in selling rare books and manuscripts. The unnamed collector bought the poster in New York and believed that it must have been “produced in Ireland, based on the type of paper used and the fact that no one has ever seen another copy or even heard of such a poster”.
Unusually, the poster does not bear the name of the organisation in Ireland that made it. The collector “regards it as extraordinarily rare, if not unique”, the spokeswoman said.
The poster, with a pre-sale estimate of £1,000 to £1,500, will go under the hammer on Thursday.