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from issue no. 10 - 2008

Aloysius Jin Luxian, Bishop of Shanghai, tells us

“Pray for the Chinese Church”

Interview with Aloysius Jin Luxian by Gianni Valente

Aloysius Jin Luxian speaks in a low voice. The “Patriarch” of the Church of Shanghai – he is now 92 years old – says it’s because his vocal cords are losing elasticity. But the eyes of the old Jesuit are still lively and shrewd. And his clarity of mind is that of always. That’s why it’s always a comfort to go and visit him, and for some time now he has been watching the way the Chinese race toward the future will involve the lives of Christians in the former Celestial Empire.

Aloysius Jin Luxian

Aloysius Jin Luxian

What has changed after the Pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics? What indications have proved most useful?
ALOYSIUS JIN LUXIAN: The letter has given us and continues to give us much solace and encouragement. The Pope has shown his love for us, and we are very moved. The open churches received the letter with enthusiasm, especially because the Pope said that in China there is only one Church, and not two. From the members of the so-called clandestine communities there was no reaction. Some of them, if they agree to reconcile and attend the open churches, will lose out. The Pope, for example, in his Letter said that every priest must remain in his diocese. Whereas the priests of the non-registered communities circulate throughout China, without constraints. But there is some progress now: here in Shanghai, the bishop not recognized by the government told his faithful that they could go to mass in the open churches. Beforehand they used to make out that the souls of those who attended the open churches would be damned. This is a very positive change.
Has anything changed with the government?
JIN: In the beginning the government’s reaction was quite moderate. There was no negative reaction. Now the government is seeking dialogue with the Vatican in confidential fashion, but no headway is being made. Mamberti and Parolin are very good. I hope that they continue to deal with the Chinese government.
Hu Jintao said that religion may be useful to society. Positive acknowledgement or a dangerous flattery?
JIN: The words of Hu Jintao are certainly no danger. The Church wants to contribute to the harmony of society. And that is in line with Hu Jintao’s thinking.
There are many young people seeking baptism. Many of them don’t know anything about the past of the Church in China. If Christians in China are increasing, should the government be worried?
JIN: Here, before baptism, all catechumens must attend catechesis for at least three months. Protestants don’t do so. They chase after as many proselytes as possible. If there’s a problem it concerns the Protestants, not the Catholics.
But what are they attracted by, the young people approaching the Church?
JIN: They’re sincere, spontaneous young people, not opportunistic. They’re seeking the truth they don’t find in Confucianism and Marxism. They want to be happy.
The ongoing conflicts risk hampering the mission the Church is called to accomplish.
JIN: It really is a scandal. What a pity. If young people approach the Church, they feel the love of Jesus in their hearts, and then see Christians fighting for futile reasons, it truly is a pity.
China is immense. And the Church, within that immensity, is a small thing. Doesn’t one tremble a little at seeing oneself so small and helpless?
JIN: The Lord tells us not to fear. And John Paul II always used to say: “Do not fear”. And we don’t fear.
Faced with this immense situation, what should the Church do? Should it invent some particular strategy?
JIN: We must grasp the opportunities that come our way, and go forward. This year, we are celebrating here the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Shanghai. I wrote a pastoral letter on this subject.
They say that the government continues not to respect the rights of the Church.
JIN: That’s not the impression we have in our diocese. On the contrary, the government is helpful. For example, now the diocese of Shanghai can rely on its own means since the government has enabled it to recover church property. And if one makes the comparison with India, or Iraq, where Christians are being killed ... We can see that there is more freedom in China than in other parts of the world. We can publish magazines and have a catalogue of more than four hundred Catholic books, without problems.
In the West there are those who support the idea of Christianizing all of China through cultural “invasion”. What do you think?
JIN: It’s an ancient method, that of colonization. Eighty years ago I trained at a Jesuit college. In the Middle School everything was taught in French. I learned the geography of China from a French teacher and a French textbook. That is the system of colonization. And it doesn’t work. China cannot be invaded culturally. I now hope that Matteo Ricci will be canonized. Matteo Ricci’s method of inculturation is an example to missionaries and to all of us. Not only in China, also in India, Viet Nam, Pakistan. And in 2010 there will be the fourth hundredth anniversary of his death. There will be important celebrations.
You met and got to know Celso Costantini, the first apostolic delegate in China.
JIN: He was admirable. I knew him very well. When he returned to Rome and was appointed Secretary of Propaganda Fide, I was in Rome to study and I would go to see him every month. He was lovable, he understood the situation, he was a prophet. His vision was prophetic. All of this I entrust to people’s prayers. I would also ask the readers of 30Days to pray for the Church in China.

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