On to China. What’s happened the past few days, after the ordination of that bishop, unapproved by the Vatican and the apparent forced participation by other clerics.
The Vietnamese Church is “dynamic and vital, not least thanks to recent concessions by the government, which is moving ever closer towards full religious freedom.” This “should serve as an example to the Chinese government, which should distance itself from the work of the Patriotic Association and grant full freedom to its Catholics.”
This is what Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, told AsiaNews on his return from Ho Chi Minh City, where together with three other Asian cardinals, he concelebrated mass to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries.
The bishops of Hong Kong, Manila and Ranchi – Cardinals Zen, Rosales and Toppo – went to Vietnam at the invitation of the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man. The visit took place between 2 and 4 December.
Cardinal Zen immediately said the visit “was really beautiful. We were treated with the utmost hospitality. I noticed that the government is truly opening up to religious freedom: it has removed all limits on priestly ordinations and recruits to the seminary. This is very important, because it is precisely these limits that created many problems for the local Church. Now there is much more freedom, even in this respect. The Chinese government should take Vietnam as an example.”
Throughout the visit, “we felt the very strong faith of the people. The church hierarchy has a solid foundation on which to work, and as soon as the government gave a bit of freedom, this faith was released. With intelligent leadership like that of Cardinal Pham Minh Manh, the Church grows. Apart from Sunday Mass, we participated in an evening for youth, a magnificent moment. We were really touched by what we saw: the great affection they showed us was moving.”
Asked about the state of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, Cardinal Bertone added that "the diplomatic relations are ‘in menti Dei’ [in God’s mind], in the future, and I think that they are in the future plans of the Chinese leaders, though they have their own times and rhythms for the framing and realization of them."
"Talks continue; therefore, the dialogue with China on this point continues," the Vatican secretary of state added.
He revealed that the new ordination of a bishop without papal approval "is an act that checks and does not favor good relations with the Holy See and the Catholic Church. They are accidents on the way."