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In the Diocese of Roermond today, Bishop Frans Wiertz officially closed the diocesan phase of the case of Limburg-born Bishop Frans Schraven. The paperwork, documenting the bishop’s life and the reasons for a possible future beatification, is now to be sent to Rome, where the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will eventually present it to Pope Francis, who has the final say about what will happen next. The file includes the proposal to declare Bishop Schraven a martyr, which negates the need for a miracle before his beatification.
Franciscus Hubertus Schraven was born in Lottum, Diocese of Roermond, in 1873. At the age of 21 he joined the Congregation of the Mission, in which he was ordained a deacon (1898) and a priest (1899). In that year he departed Marseille for China, and in 1920 he was appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Southwestern Chi-Li in China, and consecrated bishop with the titular see of Amyclae. He led the community which is now the Diocese of Zhengding until 1937, when he died at the hands of Japanese troops engaged in the lengthy war with China that led into the Second World War in Asia.
On 9 October 1937 the Japanese conquered the city of Zhengding where Bishop Schraven was responsible for the protection of some 4,000 refugees, mostly women and children. As the soldiers plundered the city and killed and raped at will. At length, the Japanese authorities demanded that Bishop Schraven hand over some women to fill the soldiers’ need for “comfort”, in other words, to serve as sex slaves. The bishop refused. In the evening of the day that the city fell, Bishop Schraven and nine priests were arrested and deported by truck. It took until 1973 before their fate was discovered: they had been burnt alive on a pyre…
In his homily today, Bishop Wiertz spoke the following words about Bishop Schraven:
“Someone who found out firsthand what it means to follow Jesus, is Monsignor Schraven, for whom we are gathered today. Because of his refusal to supply comfort girls, he chose in favour of a human existence for some one Thousand women. He chose against seeing women as objects, as commodities. With that he also chose for a literal following of Jesus.
When Bishop Schraven met with the Japanese soldiers, he must have realised what the risks of his position were. He literally told the commander, “You may kill me if you want, but giving you what you want, never!” A courageous attitude, which fits completely with what he wrote earlier that year to his family here in Limburg: “Essential is that we are ready when God calls us”.
Sometimes it becomes clear that – surprisingly enough – different times have the exact same needs. Bishop Schraven resisted sexual abuse of women. In many places in the world this sort of abuse still takes place. As Church, as faithful people, it is our task to resist that in the name of Jesus.
In recent years there has been much to do about abuse by people of the Church herself. It was shameful to find that faithful were guilty of something like that. Bishop Schraven shows us that in the Church there have also Always been people who chose the good side, who condemned abuse and even gave their own lives if need be. In Monsignor Schraven we have an example of someone who radically stood up for the protection of girls and women from sexual violence.
Where we are able to support efforts who aim to do the same, we, as Church, can’t fail to do so. We are obliged to do so in Jesus’ Holy Name. Hopefully we are soon able to invoke the intercession of Blessed Bishop Schraven, who gave his own life in imitation of Jesus in the fight against the abuse of people.”
Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella looks back on the first 100 days of the Year of Faith:
“The first reactions revealed great enthusiasm and deep interest, tangible in the flurry of expressions of it on a small scale: in many pastoral letters – written by bishops to their dioceses – that in the programme are all dedicated to faith; in the parish projects for reflection on the various articles of the Creed; and in the widespread dissemination of the official logo of the Year of Faith. The logo shows a boat, a symbol of the Church, in a square bordered field with a boat that is sailing. The main mast of the boat is a cross on which are hoisted sails composing the trigram of Christ (IHS). The words “Year of Faith” that accompany it, alongside the calendar of “great events”, are translated into the major languages, but also into other languages, even Chinese. The Year of Faith has reached China where it is present in the communities and in the Churches which are likewise living this experience of the universal Church. This was mentioned to the Holy Father during the Roman Curia’s Audience for the exchange of Christmas greetings. And the Pope not only showed his great pleasure but he also told me that Protestant communities had shown interest too. In short, the whole world is in a state of great ferment, and I would say that we have got off on the right foot.”
An optimistic sound, although the enthusiasm and attention in the Catholic media has understandably died down after the spectacle of the Year’s opening. But that’s no reason to ignore the fact that we still have the major part of the Year of Faith ahead of us. What are you doing with it? That’s the question we must ask ourselves.
The Year of Faith is a twofold invitation: to increase and deepen our own faith, and to communicate it to others.
Opening the thirteenth general congregation on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic read a special message from the 90-year-old bishop of Fengxiang in China, Msgr. Lucas Ly Jingfeng, who wrote:
“Most Reverend and Excellent Fathers of the XIII Assembly of the Synod,
I would like to congratulate you, who could participate at the Synod and give homage to the Sepulcher of Saint Peter. I am very sad that you could not listen to any of the voices of the Chinese Church. Wishing to share at least some words with you, and above all with our Pope Benedict XVI, I am sending this brief message. I would like to say that our Church in China, in particular the laity, has always maintained up to today piety, faithfulness, sincerity and devotion to the first Christians, even while undergoing fifty years of persecutions. I would also like to add that I pray intensely and constantly to God the Omnipotent so that our piety, our faithfulness, our sincerity and our devotion may turn around tepidness, unfaithfulness and the secularization that have arisen abroad because of an openness and freedom without reins. In the Year of the Faith, in your synodal discussions you can see how our faith in China could be maintained unfailingly until today. And as the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tse said: “Just as calamity generates prosperity, thus in weakness calamity hides itself”. In the Church outside of China, tepidity, unfaithfulness and secularization of the faithful has spread to much of the clergy. Instead, in the Chinese Church the laity is more pious than the clergy. Could not perhaps piety, faithfulness, sincerity and the devotion of the Christian laity shake up the external clergy? I was very moved by the lament by Pope Benedict XVI: “As we know, in vast areas of the earth faith risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the Church today. The renewal of faith must therefore take priority in the commitment of the entire Church in our time” (Speech by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the participants of the plenary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27th 2012). However, I believe that our faith as Chinese Christians could console the Pope. I will not mention politics, which is always transeunte.
A loving and heartfelt message from the Church in China.
Following this, interventions continued, by 22 Synod fathers and 7 auditors in the morning sessions. The first speaker was Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi in India, who pulled few punches in his call towards religious congregation to become missionary again:
“I would like to make a humble appeal to the religious orders to become missionary again! In the history of evangelization, all the religious orders led by the Holy Spirit have done outstanding and marvelous work. Can we say the same of the Religious Congregations today? Could it be that they have begun working like Multinationals, doing very good and necessary work to meet the material needs of humanity, but have forgotten that the primary purpose of their founding was to bring the kerygma, the Gospel, to a lost world? We must appreciate many Youth Groups and new Ecclesial Movements who are taking up the challenge. But, in my opinion this Synod must appeal to the Religious men and women to explicitly and directly take up the work of evangelization and transmission of faith in collaboration with the local bishops! I would also like to call upon the Sacred Congregation for Consecrated life to be pro active in promoting the sensus ecclesiae among all religious.”
Bishop Joseph Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda called for the Church to fight for the return of religious education in schools, identifying the problem as follows:
“[I]n some countries, in recent years, catechesis or teaching religion has been sidelined or removed from the education system even in Catholic-founded Schools or institutions of learning. The situation is aggravated in public institutions where there are no programs of catechesis or Christian religious education at all for our Catholic students. Religious education is considered to be a private matter, to be attended to only in the church or at home.”
This is certainly the situation in the west, not least here in the Netherlands.
A topic that some noted seemed to be missing from the Synod deliberations, was touched upon by Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, of Mariana in Brazil, when he said:
“As the liturgy is the special place where the presence of the Gospel is alive and therefore the privileged place for education in the faith, or rather “the permanent holy mystagogy of the Church”, this must appear in the very manner in which it is celebrated. The fascinating and contagious beauty of the mystery hidden in rites and symbols must be capable of being expressed in all its strength for the liturgy to truly evangelize. Therefore the new evangelization depends to a great extent on the capacity to make the liturgy the source of spiritual life. Probably our most demanding task and the greatest challenge is to succeed in ensuring that our liturgical celebrations are ever more beautiful and transparent in their divine beauty, source of new and renewing strength that brings joy and hope to the Christian, in order to live in Christ and in the love of the Lord.”
Without the liturgy, the earthly reflection of the divine worship of God, we are unable to know and relate to our heavenly Father, let alone let others come to know Him.
Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, of Jakarta in Indonesia, shares a personal anecdote to illustrate that evangelisation is sometimes as simple as leading by example:
“I would like to share with you a simple experience I had during my visit to a parish where I met a local catechist. I asked him, “How many catechumens do you have?” I was surprised to hear that he had more than ninety catechumens. It was quite a lot. I asked him further, “Have you ever asked your catechumens why they wish to be baptized into the Catholic Church?” He answered, “Many of them said that they were touched by the way Catholics pray during public events such as wedding feasts or funeral services”. The prayers are so touching to their hearts, because in those occasions the invocations and benedictions are delivered in their vernacular mother tongue so that they readily understand the content, whereas before they usually heard prayers recited in a foreign language, as Muslims pray in Arabic.”
One of the auditors, experts in various fields, who offered an intervention, was Mikhail Fateev of a St. Petersburg, Russia, television channel. He pointed at that, i the necessary ecumenical outreach in Russia people are less interested in meeting ‘fellow Christians’ than ‘Catholic Christians’:
“[I]n search for unity we should not reject or forget our Catholic identity. The people are more ready to speak with us as exactly with the Catholics, not as with “common Christians”. We could see this after a meeting organized by the lay Catholics in one of the largest bookstores of Saint Petersburg. The event attracted much interest in media. So we decided to start a series of public meetings and discussions on Catholic Church, its faith and traditions. We, Catholics, went out to meet the people and were met with a great interest!”
Something to keep in mind in our own ecumenical efforts: our own identity is the first step towards commonality.
At the start of the afternoon session, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke and announced a delegation to Syria to express the Holy See’s solidarity with the Syrian people, their spiritual closeness to the Christians there, and to encourage an agreement to resolve the ongoing civil war. The delegation is set to leave for Damascus next week, and will consist of Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya (Archbishop of Kinshasa), Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran (President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), Timothy Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis (Military Ordinar of Colombia), Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang (Bishop of Phat Diem), Archbishop Dominique Mamberti (Secretary for Relations with States) and Msgr. Alberto Ortega (official of the Secretariat of State).
Nine interventions followed in the course of the fourteenth general congregation, including one by Bishop Everard de Jong (pictured, far left), the single Dutch delegate to the Synod. He spoke about the importance of prayer, especially to the Holy Spirit, in the new evangelisation. “It was Pentecost that started the first evangelization, and we need a new Pentecost,” he said, suggesting also that the Holy Father introduce Benedictine prayers at the end of Mass, as was standard in the past, or perhaps a constant novena to the Holy Spirit.
“We do not only have to present the gospel and the catechism, but have to promote the spiritual exercises, in which we confront people with the Jesus of the gospels and the Church, and help them to compare the influence of His Spirit in their lives with the outcomes of a more hedonistic way of life (cfr. Ga. 5:29-23). Thus they will be led to the knowledge and recognition of the objective truth of their human nature, its deepest desires, and God in their conscience. In this way they will discover St. Peter and his successors, and the church (Cf. Bl. John Henry Card. Newman (1801-1890). This means we should give priests and religious a better spiritual formation, in order to be spiritual directors, to be real spiritual fathers and mothers.”
Bishop de Jong also spoke about family and life:
“Families are essential in the transmission of the gospel. In this context our society does not know sin anymore. Still, sin has its influence on the openness to the gospel-message. Pornography, sexuality outside marriage of man and woman, contraception, abortion, will close the heart. Who, indeed, can say yes to God, the giver of life in abundance, if he or she, consciously or unconsciously, says no to human life? This means that the Church should courageously promote the gospel of life, including the theology of the body, natural family planning, and at the same time announce the very merciful God.”
After the interventions from the Synod fathers, six fraternal delegates and one special guest also offered their thoughts, among them Brother Alois, the prior of Taizé, who spoke about the need for communion as a fruitful basis for hope and faith.
Photo credit:  Wilson Dias/ABr,  Lidy Peters/RKK
Vacant sees, dioceses without a bishop, are not unheard of. At any given time, the worldwide Church has a few dozen of these, as bishops are transferred or pass away and a successor is not yet selected. These vacancies usually last from several months to some two years in exceptional cases. The Diocese of Pinsk, in Belarus, has a different story, though. It has been without a bishop of its own for almost exactly 66 years…
Belarus is often regarded as the last dictatorship in Europe, and a country whose government looks back fondly on its Soviet history. Not surprisingly, the Church is looked upon with suspicion at best, although she has been allowed to maintain her ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the form of three dioceses and an archdiocese. Of these, Pinsk covers the entire southern third of the nation.
Established in 1925, Pinsk was led by two bishops in succession: Bishop Zygmunt Łoziński from 1925 to 1932, and Bishop Kazimierz Bukraba from 1932 to 1946. But then that episode ended, coinciding with the aftermath of World War II and the Soviet Union’s incorporation of formerly Polish territory into Belarus. Just like in other Communist countries, the Church had a hard time, especially when it comes to the free appointment of bishops and priests. As in other dioceses, apostolic administrators were appointed. For Pinsk, these were Bishop Wladyslaw Jedruszuk, auxiliary bishop of Pinsk from the time of Bishop Bukraba, from 1967 to 1991; Cardinal Kazimierz Świątek, the archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, from 1991 to 2011; and Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusievicz, Cardinal Świątek’s successor as archbishop of Minks-Mohilev, from June 2011 to today.
As the last of Belarus’ dioceses, Pinsk now once more has its own bishop. He is Msgr. Antoni Dziemianko, 52 years old, and until today Minsk-Mohilev’s auxiliary bishop. The bishop, who incidentally has the same motto in his coat of arms as our own Cardinal Simonis – Ut Unum Sint -, was ordained to the priesthood in 1980. In 1998, he was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of Grodno, also in Belarus, with the titular see of Lesvi – a see once held by the late Cardinal Sánchez of the Philippines. In 2004, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev, of which he was the apostolic administrator from June of 2006 to September 2007, upon the retirement of Cardinal Świątek. He continued his duties as auxiliary bishop until his appointment as ordinary of Pinsk today.
Although a vacancy of 66 years is extraordinary, it is, sadly, by no means unique. There are eight jurisdictions, in China, North Korea, Greece, Ukraine and Romania, which have been vacant for longer. The record holder is the Apostolic Vicariate of Thessaloniki in Greece, which has been vacant since Bishop Allesandro Guidati became archbishop of Naxos-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos in 1929…
Photo credit:  Rostisław Wygranenko
Will or won’t Father Karl Josef Becker be created a cardinal today? Since yesterday, we can safely answer that question with a yes, as the photo below shows.
Seated next to Mar George Alencherry, Fr. Becker, the only non-bishop of the 22-member cardinal class of 2012, attended yesterday’s day of reflection and prayer. During the day, in addition to the new evangelisation, such topics like the religious situation in China and interreligious dialogue in India were discussed.
Set to start in less than 90 minutes, I’ll be following the consistory’s proceedings – with a special eye on my own former bishop, now the highest-ranking prelate in the Netherlands, Archbishop Wim Eijk, via the Vatican Radio stream.
Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
As a class of 18 new cardinal electors awaits their creation, the current group falls to 107 as Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun turns 80 and loses his right to vote in a conclave. The former archbishop of Hong Kong was for years China’s only cardinal, and the number doesn’t seem to increase anytime soon, considering the difficult relations between the Communist superpower and the Holy See. Cardinal Zen’s successor in the former British colony, Bishop John Tong Hon, is already lined up to become China’s next sole cardinal and elector.
Cardinal Zen, a priest since 1961, was ordained as coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong, finally succeeding Cardinal Wu Cheng-Chung in 2002. He was created a cardinal in the first consistory called by Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006.
His episcopal motto, “Ipsi cura est”, comes from 1 Peter 5:7, and means “he cares (about you)”, something that Cardinal Zen took to heart, often being publicly critical of the governments of both China and Hong Kong. His latest action was a three-day hunger strike last October, to protest how the government handled the school system.
Cardinal Zen of course retains his cardinal title church of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore a Tor Bella Monaca on Rome’s eastern outskirts.
After a busy morning in which he consecrated Archbishops Charles Brown and Marek Solczyński during today’s Epiphany Mass, the Holy Father appeared a bit later than usual for his noon Angelus address. He quickly moved to the big event that was already causing a considerable buzz among Catholics – journalists and otherwise – on Twitter: the announcement of a consistory on 18 February in which no less than 22 new cardinals – among them 18 electors – will be created.
There are a few big names in the list, but standing out for us here in the Netherlands is that of Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk. Three years after his arrival in Utrecht, he will become the metropolitan see’s fifth cardinal in a row. Turning 59 in June, Cardinal-designate Eijk will be able to participate in at least two conclaves, I would think (unless the sucessor of Pope Benedict will pull a JPII and remain on the seat of St. Peter for 20 years or more).
The selection of Archbishop Eijk was not unexpected. His name was already mentioned in the run-up to the November 2010 consistory, but the 80th birthday of Cardinal Simonis, the only Dutch elector, cleared the way for Eijk to succeed him in the College of Cardinals. With the title of cardinal comes, of course, a title church in Rome and a whole bag of expectations. And certainly the local media, which has been seeing the Church and the archbishop in the light of the abuse crisis, will be asking a whole heap of questions about Eijk’s suitability for the red hat. But these are questions being asked too late. A candidate’s suitability as cardinal flows from his suitability as bishop or priest. Added to that is the issue of the College of Cardinals reflecting the world Church and the importance of a see or curial position reflected in a cardinal title. The Archdiocese of Utrecht under the guidance of Archbishop Eijk is, in the mind of the pope and most likely also in light of the future, deserving of a cardinal at the helm.
Here is the full list of future cardinals:
- Fernando Filoni, 65, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People
- João Bráz de Aviz, 64, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
- Manuel Monteiro de Castro, 73, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary (only appointed as such yesterday!)
- Giuseppe Bertello, 69, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State
- Domenico Calcagno, 69, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of theApostolic See
- Giuseppe Versaldi, 68, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
- Santos Abril y Castelló, 76, Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
- Edwin Frederick O’Brien, 72, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
- Antonio Maria Vegliò, 74, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
- Francesco Coccopalmerio, 73, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
- Giuseppe Betori, 65, Archbishop of Firenze
- George Alencherry, 66, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly
- Thomas Christopher Collins, 65, Archbishop of Toronto
- Willem Jacobus Eijk, 58, Archbishop of Utrecht
- John Tong Hon, 72, Bishop of Hong Kong
- Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, Archbishop of Berlin (the youngest member of the College of Cardinals)
- Timothy Michael Dolan, 62, Archbishop of New York
- Dominik Jaroslav Duka, 68, Archbishop of Prague
- Prosper Grech, 86, Priest of the Order of St. Augustine
- Karl Josef Becker, 83, Priest of the Society of Jesus
- Lucian Muresan, 80, Major Archbishop of Fagaras si Alba Iulia (Romanian)
- Julien Ries, 91, Priest of Namur, Belgium
This consistory is a fairly Italian affair. With 7 new cardinals, Italy easily overtakes the United States and Germany, which each gain two cardinals (Dolan and O’Brien; Woelki and Becker), Brazil (Bráz de Aviz), Portugal (Monteiro de Castro), Spain (Abril y Castelló), India (Alencherry), Canada (Collins), the Netherlands (Eijk), China (Tong Hon), the Czech Republic (Duka), Malta (Grech), Romania (Muresan) and Belgium (Ries) each have one new cardinal.
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken about the role and duties of bishops in a homily at the consecration five new bishops, on Saturday. Read the full text over at Zenit and in a Dutch translation here. The Holy Father discusses the unity of Christians and the Apostolic Succession, taken a line from the Acts of the Apostles (2:42) as inspiration. He also gives an explanation of what faith is.
Three of the five new bishops will work in the Roman Curia: Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci is the secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and titular archbishop of Menevia in Umbria; Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai is the secretary of Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and titular archbishop of Sila in northern Africa; and Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta is secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy and titular archbishop of Alba Maritima in Croatia.
The two remaining bishops are to work in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, although they have not been assigned to the nunciature of a particular country (I hear the Dutch nunciature will become available soon…). Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi is titular archbishop of Sutrium in Lazio, Italy; and Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra is titular archbishop of Thelepte in Tunisia.
Photo credit:  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini,  ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images