And also pray for the Church around the world, as this story from The Telegraph, revealing the disarray of the Church in China—which is emblematic of the Church’s experience under Communism—shows how dangerous it can often be for Catholic clerics.
China’s largest Catholic diocese has been left leaderless and in a state of chaos after a popular long-standing bishop died and his presumed successor was placed under house arrest for speaking out against the Communist Party.
The crisis has exposed the fault lines that remain between the Vatican and Beijing, and has been described as the worst faced by the church for decades.
The problems started on July 7 last year, when Thaddeus Ma Daqin, Shanghai’s newly ordained auxiliary bishop, infuriated Party officials and stunned congregants and clergy by using his ordination to renounce the Patriotic Association, a Beijing-controlled organ that controls the Chinese Church.
Since then, Ma – who had been in line to take over as Shanghai’s next bishop – has been under house arrest at a seminary in the city’s suburbs.
The crisis was compounded in April when Shanghai’s incumbent bishop, Aloysius Jin Luxian, died at the age of 96.
With Bishop Jin gone and no sign of Bishop Ma being released, China’s wealthiest and perhaps most important Catholic diocese has been thrown into uncertainty.
Worshippers had been left “shocked, grief-stricken and anxious overcome with grief and dismay”, said Father Michael Kelly, the head of UCA News, a news agency that covers Catholic issues in Asia. “It is the worst of times.”
Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, a Belgian priest who heads the Catholic University of Leuven’s Verbiest Institute and has a long-standing relationship with China’s Catholic Church said: “The confrontation may be more sharp than [at any time] in the last 30 years. “[Shanghai’s church] has no shepherd leading the flock.”
Fearful of government retributions, those who work and worship within Shanghai’s Catholic Church are reluctant to openly discuss the crisis enveloping their community.
But one source in the city’s Catholic community said the diocese was facing a “defining moment”.
“We don’t know what the government’s next step will be. We don’t know what the church’s next step will be,” said the source. “Only God knows [what will happen].” “It is really about power,” said the insider. “It is all about control and a fear of Rome’s influence. We can be good Catholics and good Chinese citizens. We love our country. But in this country you can only love the country if you also love the Party. Many Chinese Catholics love the country but not the Party.” The turmoil has revived memories of the night of September 8, 1955, when Communist officials rounded up and jailed Shanghai’s Catholic leaders, including Bishop Jin who would spend 18 years behind bars and toiling at reform camps.
After leaders were released from prison in the 1980s, the diocese went from strength to strength, observers and church members say.