Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Catholic Churches In China

We have posted before about the difficulties of being Catholic in an officially atheistic society. The long distances to "nearby" cathedrals. The relative absence of the Christian calendar in everyday life. (We are especially feeling this absence during Holy Week, as there is nary a sign of Easter anywhere to be found.)

Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is reconciling the fact that there are actually two Catholic churches here in China. One is the official Catholic church that is "loyal" to the Communist Party. The other is an "underground" church that operates in homes and other less visible places around the country.

Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI offered his support to those clergy who join the official church, in an effort to bring the two segments of Chinese Catholicism closer together. Bishops appointed by Rome now commonly also make their pledge of fealty to the government.

This coming together, of course, raises other difficulties. Are priests who join the official church in some way "selling out?" Are underground churches, by naturally inviting suspicion, somehow limiting the ability of sanctioned parishes to do good work in improving the everyday lives of people in need of the church's charitable works? Where do we draw the line in making such judgments, as the distinction gets a little fuzzier than it was in the past?

Well, imagine holding hands with a standing-room only crowd in a cathedral this coming Easter morning, singing and swaying as the Lord's Prayer is belted out joyfully in Chinese.

And then imagine holding in your arms, that same morning, a baby who surely would have been forcibly aborted had her mother not been shepherded by fellow Catholics in the underground church.

Please keep the Chinese Catholic church, both the official church and the underground church, in your prayers during this Holy Week.

~Steve

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