by Ed Wilkinson
A high-ranking Vatican official from China says he doesn’t expect much to change in church-state relations with the new Chinese government.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, S.D.B., said that “I don’t think there will be a big change in the immediate future for the religious policy in China. It’s not one of the immediate priorities of the new government. They have many other things to take care of.”
China unveiled its new Communist Party leadership last week. The top ruling body, known as the Politburo Standing Committee, is composed of seven members who will take charge in March.
Xi Jinping, the new president, repeatedly called for a “great renewal” in his acceptance speech. Xi also was promoted to chairman of the Central Military Commission at a time when the country aspires to become a maritime power.
Archbishop Savio explained that since the Cultural Revolution in China, people have been able to freely worship. The problem, he points out, is with “the structure and development of the Church – especially for the hierarchy – the control is too much.”
The Chinese government demands the power of approval before a bishop can be appointed by the Vatican. The result has been the existence of two churches in China – an underground Church loyal to the Vatican and the government-approved church.
The archbishop, who is a secretary to the Congregation for the Evangelizations of Peoples, was in the U.S. to attend the meeting of the board of directors of the Pontifical Society for the Missions in New York and also to make a presentation to the American Bishops at their annual plenary session in Baltimore. While in New York, he visited with the Chinese community in Queens and celebrated Mass at St. John Vianney Church, Flushing.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, accompanied by Msgr. Ronald Marino, vicar for migrants, and Msgr. Terrence Mulkerin, diocesan director of the Propagation of the Faith, presided at the liturgy.
The archbishop also expressed thanks to American Catholics for their concern for Catholics around the world. He said he wanted “to offer thanks to American Catholics for their great affection for other churches in need around the world.
I’m really very grateful for the Church in America and all the generous people. They really have been concerned about other churches in other countries.”
He also encouraged the local Church to continue supporting the plight of immigrants. He asked that dioceses offer a welcoming spirit and hospitality and to assist the newly arrived with finding employment and filing the proper immigration documentation.
“Quite a number of families want to have better opportunities for their children to receive a better education,” he said.
Noting that it was the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, the archbishop said, “This can be a symbol for us. When you have a big place of worship, we are united as one people of God, all children of God.”
Following the Mass in Flushing, Father Antonius Ho, C.S.J.B., administrator, and St. John Vianney parish hosted a reception at which the archbishop posed for photos with parishioners.