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from issue no. 06/07 - 2007

Our Lady of Sheshan, help of Christians, Pray for us!

by Aloysius Jin Luxian

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian

The pastoral Letter of the Pope addressed to the Church in China, object of the concern of the faithful throughout the world, awaited by the faithful of all China, was finally published on 30 June. We give thanks for the grace of the Lord!
After publication, friends sent me the Chinese text. I have read it twice with great attention and was left very moved. After receiving it I went to my small chapel and meditated on it in my heart. Amen, alleluia! Then together with the priests I studied the document. Now I would like to share my first understanding with everyone.
As universal pastor, with the concern of a spiritual and merciful father, with serenity and calm, basing himself on Scripture, on the documents of Vatican Council II, on the Code of Canon Law and on the teaching of the dead pope John Paul II on China, the Pope sets out for us in clear and simple fashion the nature, the mission, the task, the organization of the Church of Christ. It gives me the feeling of attending a great lesson in ecclesiology, it makes me love our Church even more, and gives me the determination to take another step in my post of local bishop towards soon achieving the hope and the commitment of Jesus for “one pastor and one fold”.
The pastoral letter of the Pope is addressed to the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China. This Catholic Church that lives in the People’s Republic of China is only one, there are not two, there is no underground part and no official part. All the Church of China believes single-mindedly in the Church one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. We have one sole pastor together, we live together in only one fold. This the Pope expresses clearly and without ambiguity. At this point I would like to turn to the friends abroad who are concerned for our Church: I beg you be united with the Pope, no longer to talk of our Church as of two Churches, favoring the one and denying the other, hanging round our necks labels like “faithful” and “unfaithful”, “official” and “unofficial”.
The Holy See perfectly understands the circumstances of the past and of the present of our Church, it has at heart what awaits us in the future and the situations of today. As universal pastor his eyes are naturally focussed on what lies ahead and does not stay in the past. For us, the issues of yesterday belong to the past, for the eternal Father that is not so, all our words and all our actions exist for ever before Him. They cannot be erased. The prize of God goes infinitely beyond our deserts and our hopes.
The Church in China is only one. Brothers and sisters, we cross the river together, we live together in harmony and in joy. This is the dearest hope of the Pope.
But in his pastoral letter the Pope also writes with clear-headedness: «These indications, that concern the nature itself of the universal Church, have a particular meaning for the Church in China. The problems that it is facing to get over – internally and in its relations with the Chinese civil society – tensions, divisions and recriminations do not escape you». Thus the Pope stressed the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, and says: «This journey cannot be accomplished from one day to the next».
Our diocese of Shanghai will struggle with all its heart, with all its energy and tirelessly to fulfill the hope of the Pope as soon as may be.
The Church outside China, in every country and in some lands, has the bodies of the Episcopal Conference or of the assemblies of the bishops. The situation of China is different from the norm. Twenty years ago the Church in Taiwan organized an Episcopal Conference denominating it Episcopal Conference of the Church in China. The previous Pope pointed out to them that the name was not correct, because its members were only the few ordinary bishops of the island of Taiwan. The name needed to be corrected. The Pope pointed out to them that they could not call themselves Episcopal Conference of the Chinese Church, but rather Episcopal Conference of Taiwan. The bishops of Taiwan accepted with joy the Pope’s indication and changed the name.
Once some underground bishops in China constituted a Chinese Episcopal Conference, sending a report to Rome to get approval. Rome didn’t approve. The reason was very simple: this body did not include the “public” bishops.
The “public” Episcopal Conference was founded more than ten years ago. Naturally, it did not make a report to Rome. And without report, how could it be approved? A National Episcopal Conference must include all the bishops of the country as members, and only after its name has become correspondent with the reality, does it becomes a National Episcopal Conference. I hope this comes about soon.
The pastoral letter warns: «The pretension of some bodies, decided on by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, of setting themselves above the bishops themselves and of guiding the life of the ecclesial community, does not correspond with Catholic doctrine». Obviously what the Pope is alluding to is the Patriotic Association. The Patriotic Association was founded fifty years ago. Now the Holy See reveals its position for the first time. In its eyes the Patriotic Association has three features: first, it was founded by the government, second, it is extraneous to the structure of the Church, third, it is set above the bishops to guide the Church. I have been bishop to Shanghai for almost twenty years. The Patriotic Association in Shanghai has never set itself above me; on the contrary, it has accepted my directives. At the beginning of the 20th century, Shanghai had an organization of Catholic Action. Among its members there were such eminent figures as Lu Baihong, Zhu Zhiyao and others. Because of their help in evangelization, the Vatican awarded them decorations. They wrote a glorious page in the history of the diocese of Shanghai. They also served as bridge between the diocese and the government, they solved problems that the foreign missionaries could not solve. I always hope that the Catholics of the diocese of Shanghai continue in the spirit of Catholic Action, developing the spirit that the laity must have. I often say: «The present century will be the time of the laity; I nourish a great hope in the mature friends of Shanghai».
I would like to refer to the second part of the Pope’s letter, that lays out the norms of the pastoral life.
Though for twenty years the diocese of Shanghai has developed its own Church according to the spirit of the Gospel, of the Code of Canon Law and of the documents of Vatican Council II, at the present moment we must sit down to reflect and find the shortcomings and to take measures for the purpose of looking after the diocese and the parishes even better in future.
The Chinese and English versions of the Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China published  on 30 June 2007

The Chinese and English versions of the Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China published on 30 June 2007

The pastoral letter stresses the task of seminary training. This is indeed very important. I can find comfort in the fact that we created in the Shanghai diocese a seminary at Sheshan. This was the first seminary to be reopened after the reform and the opening of China. The diocese of Shanghai has overcome every kind of difficulty, such as the want of books, the want of professors, the shortage of resources. In the course of the years more than four hundred young priests were trained. I would like to use the occasion to express my deep gratitude to the brothers of the Church in Germany, in Austria and elsewhere, who have generously supported the seminary of Sheshan, and in special fashion the Society of Maryknoll, the Society of the Divine Word, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Dominican Order, the Society of the Salesians, the Society of Saint Columbus, the Society of Jesus. I ask you to pray for them and to ask God to give them a hundredfold reward.
The last paragraph of the pastoral letter makes me feel great joy and comfort. The Pope decides that the annual feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, Help of Christians, 24 May, will be a day of prayer by the Church throughout the world for the Church in China. I think that the believers of Shanghai will be very happy when they hear this good news. Thank you, Holy Father.
This is a very great honor for the diocese of Shanghai, and at the same time a very important obligation. First of all we must honor Our Lady with extraordinary fervor, we must model ourselves on Our Lady, pledging ourselves to be her sons and daughters, and setting an example to other Catholics. In second place, because certainly there will be many faithful who will come on pilgrimage to Sheshan, we Catholics of Shanghai must prepare adequately, be welcoming hosts, so that the Chinese and foreign faithful can see in us the glory of divine love, arriving with cheerful hearts and leaving in contentment.
Finally, the Pope’s pastoral letter stresses the function of the bishop, speaking as essential point of the obligations of the bishop. I feel agitation and fear. I am already 92. The Pope reminds us of the words of Saint Paul the apostle: life is Christ and death a blessing. I ask you all to pray to God for me, that I can indeed live Christ and finally obtain the bliss of a death in peace. Amen.

Aloysius Jin Luxian
The Jesuit Aloysius Jin Luxian was born 92 years ago in a Christian village in the suburbs of Shanghai. Arrested the 8 September 1955, he spent more than twenty years in jail and then in a regime of guarded freedom. In1985 he accepted to become Bishop of Shanghai with the approval of the government, but without the recognition on the part of the Pope. In 2005 it was Jin who was the “director” of the ordination of his own successor in pectore Joseph Xing Wenzhi, nominated by the Pope, “elected” by the diocese, approved by the government. An operation in whose configurations there arrived also for his episcopate the canonical legitimation of the Pope, who then also invited Jin to Rome – without success – for the Synod on the Eucharist.

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