Shanghai Scrap brought us an interesting tidbit over the weekend on the results of the Pope’s landmark letter to Chinese Catholics released a year ago on June 30, 2007. The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) reports that the Pope’s call for reconciliation between “underground” and “open” Catholic communities has seen some positive results. UCAN cites open and underground priests engaging in dialogue with each other, and Shanghai Scrap’s Adam Minter points out a significant development in Tianjin, where more underground Catholics are attending Masses in Xikai Cathedral, a cathedral where open-Church priests preside. Underground Tianjin Catholics previously refused to enter the cathedral and instead chose to pray at the Marian grotto outside. Minter regards the Tianjin situation as exemplary in explaining the misuse of the term “underground” Catholics:
the mere use of the term “underground” is misleading, as it suggests a community of believers who meet – and exist – in secret. But, in today’s China, nothing could be further from the truth… Just to be clear: the open Catholics pray inside the cathedral, the underground Catholics pray outside the cathedral…if Tianjin’s underground Catholics were trying to remain “underground,” they couldn’t have chosen a more public place to do it.
As UCAN notes, “Underground Catholics have refused to join the open Church because they regard it as controlled by the government-approved Catholic Patriotic Association.” While interviews with various Chinese Catholic clergy yielded mixed opinions, Anthony Lam Sui-ki, a senior researcher of the diocesan Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, told UCAN:
that although not everyone is following the letter’s guidelines, it has at least laid down some long-term rules. It has also allowed the Chinese government to understand the Church’s vision and principles of its structure, he continued. While Lam stressed the letter does not call for unity in the China Church’s structures, he sees some attempt at “communion” with underground Catholics now seeming “less resistant about joining the liturgy” in the open Church.
Photo by redpolkadot.