(Beijing) Two legitimate bishops were called to resign yesterday on behalf of Pope Francis. They have to give way to Patriotic bishops loyal to China’s Communist regime.
Underground Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin was the Bishop of Mindong, officially recognized by Rome. He was rejected by the Communist government in Beijing. At the insistence of Rome, he will now resign to make room for a bishop in the diocese, whose excommunication was lifted by Pope Francis last September. The repeal was a one-sided advance of Rome for the signing of the secret agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China on the same day. The content of the agreement is kept secret in agreement of both sides, but should relate to episcopal appointments.
Pope Francis abolished the excommunication of seven bishops whose episcopal ordination had been ordered by the communist government without the consent of Rome. Part of the agreement seems to be that not only the excommunication should be repealed, but all previously bishops of Rome as diocesan bishops must be used and recognized. In order to make this possible, the Vatican negotiators urged legitimate bishops in the fall of 2017 to renounce their offices. They must subordinate themselves in rank to the bishops who belong to the state and become their suffragan bishops.
Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin was also urged to do so. In the past two years alone, he was arrested twice and taken to an unknown location. A popular method in the People's Republic of China is to exert pressure, intimidate, or subject regime opponents to re-education.
His place as Diocesan Bishop of Mindong will be occupied by Vincent Zhan Silu. This became known yesterday after Bishop Guo gathered his priests in the afternoon to explain the situation to them.
Bishop Guo, who will be Auxiliary Bishop of Mindong in the future, had just returned from a place near Beijing. Curial Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the head of the Vatican delegation that had prepared the agreement and signed it on behalf of the Pope, had sent him there.
Archbishop Celli handed Bishop Guo a letter from Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide. In it they asked him to cede the leadership of the diocese to Zhan Silu. Archbishop Celli emphasized to the bishop that Pope Francis awaits his resignation as a "gesture of obedience". It is a "sacrifice for the overall situation of the Chinese Church,” which he has to bring into being.
The news, AsiaNews said, has "saddened" many priests and believers. Until now it was the case that an episcopal bishop, reconciled to Rome and recognized by the Holy See, subordinated himself to the Underground Bishop and became its Auxiliary Bishop. "Now the opposite is the case," says AsiaNews.
In the diocese of Mindong, the vast majority of the faithful and the priests belong to the Underground Church. The Natuonal Patriotic Association has counted at best ten percent of the faithful and 20 percent of the priests. Thanks to the Vatican-Chinese agreement, the state-owned organization is now also in control of the underground church.
The question of who benefits from the agreement does not have to be asked. Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong and gray eminence of the Underground Church said in September. It is the government in Beijing.
Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian was also summoned to meet Archbishop Celli. He too will resign "as a papal wish" as Diocesan Bishop of Shantou. His place will be taken over by Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang.
The paths approved by Rome are still a stumbling block for those affected. In order for the legitimate bishops, after their resignation, to become auxiliary bishops of their previous dioceses, they need the approval of the communist government and the bishops' council. They depend on those from whom they have so far been able to stay away from great sacrifices but successfully.
Even before signing, Cardinal Zen said that the Vatican would hand over the faithful underground church to the regime.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi