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from issue no. 12 - 2009

And the communist secretary brought the Mass chalice

In the long conversation between a clandestine priest and Bishop Francis An Shuxin, the first questions focused on the period of detention and isolation suffered by Monsignor An between 1996 and 2006. The few sparse mentions, given without emphasis by the bishop, are terse and simple testimony to how the Lord’s grace is capable of brightening and lightening the hearts of His children, even in difficult circumstances and sometimes following paradoxical and imaginative ways

The conversation between a clandestine priest and Bishop Francis An Shuxin

First of all we would like to know your conditions during house arrest, especially in terms of your prayers and your inward state. Could you explain better?
FRANCIS AN SHUXIN: Now the government’s policy towards the bishops and priests is different from before, is already a bit more humane. Against us bishops, the policy is isolation, keeping us alone in a guarded place, with no possibility of contacting anyone outside. One isn’t allowed to contact the very people one would like to see. For the rest, they tried on many occasions to get me out, maybe to go and see other dioceses, and then come back. Obviously I didn’t go out very often, but sometimes it happened...
In 1996 the incident of the “video” [a documentary about the diocese of Baoding shot by a French television crew, ed.] provoked a political reaction. The diocese of Baoding finished at the center of particular attention from Beijing, and for that reason the city of Baoding also gave great importance to the matter. Consequently we too became “subjects worthy of interest.” The funds were allocated directly from Beijing. To watch me, one man, dozens of people became involved.
They later discovered that we had done nothing, that it was all very normal, that it was simply a matter of our faith, then gradually their attention slackened, the surveillance personnel decreased. But the restrictions still remained in force.
At first I had nothing. When I went to Bishop Jin Luxian I finally had a gift, a breviary. Later, gradually, I even had a room all to myself.
When the secretary of the Communist Party of the village came to visit me, he brought me the liturgical vestments and a chalice for celebrating Mass.
After I bought grapes to make wine, I know how to make wine. When I made a lot, I kept what I needed, the rest I gave to the people guarding me, to drink in company.
Later I saw the books published by Faith Publishers and Guang Qi: the books were shipped up here by mail. So, for ten years, we lived together in good enough harmony and well-being.
During that period, didn’t they give you some “educational” lessons?
AN SHUXIN: At first the superiors told the enforcement officers that they had to study with me. But what topic could they have? When we were together, we talked about the meaning of life. As for moral issues, they didn’t have much to say. When we were together it was just to read a little of the Faith newspaper or other newspapers and magazines. What they read, we actually already knew. Perhaps their ideas are different from ours. But whether or not they met the demands of their superiors is altogether another consideration.

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