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Key abuse charge against Cardinal Pell withdrawn

March 2, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Melbourne, Australia, Mar 2, 2018 / 04:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday an Australian prosecutor withdrew a charge of abuse against Cardinal George Pell, who is currently undergoing a trial in Australia for accusations of historical sexual abuse.

The charge was dropped by Prosecutor Mark Gibson March 2 after its key complainant died in January. It is only one of the charges brought against Pell, though the exact number of charges and details are not yet public.

The next stage of the case begins March 5, with a four-week long preliminary hearing in Melbourne. The hearing, which Pell will be present for, will determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to hold a jury trial for the charges of abuse brought against the cardinal.

The director of prosecutions for the Melbourne Magistrates Court had indicated in a hearing Feb. 14 that the charge of key witness Damian Dignan, who died in January, would likely be withdrawn.

Dignan, who died of leukemia in early January, along with a fellow classmate at St. Alipius school in Ballarat, accused Pell in 2016 of inappropriate sexual behavior when they were minors. The cardinal had previously been accused of acts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961.

Defense attorney Ruth Shann argued against Dignan’s credibility Feb. 14, saying that his complaints had a “domino effect” in terms of other people contacting the police, since he made the accusations nearly 40 years after the alleged abuse, and after reading about other cases in newspapers.

The start of Monday’s preliminary hearing is the next step in the ongoing case against the cardinal, who in June 2016 was charged by Victoria state police of multiple instances of historical sexual abuse.

After the charges were announced, Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and a member of the Pope’s council of nine cardinal advisers, was granted leave from his post by Pope Francis in order to return to Australia for the trial.

The cardinal, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966, has pleaded not guilty to the multiple counts of sexual abuse, and has maintained his innocence from the beginning.

“I am innocent of these charges, they are false,” he told journalists June 29, 2017, after the charges were announced, adding that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”


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Commentary: Would attacking North Korea be ‘just war?’

March 1, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Denver, Colo., Mar 1, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA).- As North Korea continues to develop its nuclear arsenal, should the United States contemplate a pre-emptive strike?

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says the answer is yes. In a Wall Street Journal commentary this week, Bolton argued that because North Korea is working to finalize its ability to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear warheads, the time to attack the rogue nation is now.
North Korea poses an imminent threat, he said, and it is necessary for the United States to “eliminate that threat.”
Bolton took up a theory of pre-emptive defense developed by nineteenth-century Secretary of State Daniel Webster. The theory is that pre-emptive strikes are justified when a threat, in the words of Webster, is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

Bolton argued that in a nuclear age, a volatile enemy’s possession of destructive weapons that can travel great distances in short periods of time requires a new way of thinking about pre-emptive strikes.

“Necessity in the nuclear and ballistic-missile age is simply different than in the age of steam,” he wrote.
Bolton is right to argue that nuclear weapons are a significant factor in evaluating military action, but wrong in his conclusion. The threat of nuclear weapons should cause us to act with more caution, not less.
The Church has long urged caution when it comes to weapons development. The Second Vatican Council wrote in Gaudium et Spes, “Indeed, if the kind of instruments which can now be found in the armories of the great nations were to be employed to their fullest, an almost total and altogether reciprocal slaughter of each side by the other would follow.”
Those words were written in 1965. Today, more than 50 years later, the truth they contain is even more apparent.
Rather than striking pre-emptively, Church teaching talks about legitimate military action in self-defense, and only when certain conditions are met. These conditions are outlined in the Catechism: “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”
Bolton does not discuss what he means by a pre-emptive strike. But a look at the possibilities suggests that none of them meet the conditions laid out by the Church.
U.S. intelligence about North Korea is far from complete. Experts believe the regime has hidden key facilities of which we are not currently aware. As a result, any attempt to completely wipe out Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities lacks the “serious prospects of success” necessary to meet the Church’s just war criteria.
A failed attempt at wiping out North Korea’s nuclear capabilities – or any attempt to carry out a more limited attack on the key known facilities – would result in serious retaliation and likely mass casualties.
Bolton is right to be concerned about what comes next with North Korea.

There aren’t easy answers on the Korean Peninsula. There will likely be no democracy uprising in Pyongyang. Dialogue with the country seems to be a fool’s errand, with limited prospects for success.  Preemptively striking an unstable and unpredictable North Korea seems no more likely to succeed.

But more talk costs very little. War with a nuclear power we know very little about might cost a great deal more.

It feels unsatisfying to call for more talk, when talk, thus far, has accomplished nothing. Perhaps a pre-emptive strike might feel more satisfying. But the morality of such a decision should matter more than the temporary satisfaction of having done something.

We need more creativity, more patience, and more prayer for wisdom in North Korea before anyone concludes that war is the necessary path to lasting peace.

Michelle La Rosa is managing editor of Catholic News Agency.


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Cardinal Zen calls China deal ‘suicide,’ blames papal advisors

February 28, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2018 / 09:56 am (CNA).- In a recent blog post Cardinal Joseph Zen has issued another harsh critique of the rumored Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops, calling it an act of “suicide” and a “shameless surrender” to the communist government.

However, he said the problem isn’t necessarily the Pope, who “is optimistic and full of love, and is eager to visit China.”

Rather, he faulted the Pope’s advisors for what he said is a “bad deal,” saying they are “obsessed” with an “Ostpolitik” solution to the issue of episcopal appointments which “compromises without limits,” yet gains little in return.

Pope Francis, he said, “has never had direct knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party and, moreover, is poorly informed by the people around him.”

Specifically, Zen pointed the finger at Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who he said was in the “diplomatic school” of his predecessor Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who served as Vatican Secretary of State from 1979-1990.

Zen said Casaroli was “obsessed with Ostpolitik,” and called it “a sort of political compromise.”

He also said the late Cardinal Ivan Dias, formerly Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, had also been influenced by Casaroli. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples oversees the administration of the Church in areas designated ‘mission territories’ around the world.

Dias, who died last summer, had a “marvelous curriculum,” having been Archbishop of Bombay for nearly a decade and was familiar with the situation in Asia as a whole, Zen said.

However, the problem is that both Dias and Parolin “were perfectly in tune with the application of Ostpolitik in China, and [played] a double game against the instructions of Benedict XVI.”

Ostpolitik was the name given to the political process of pursuing the normalization of relations between the fractured German government in the late 1960s. Specifically, it aimed to patch the division between the Federal Republic of Germany of West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic of East Germany, which were split after the end of World War II in 1945.

Since then, the term Ostpolitik has also been used to describe the efforts made by Pope Paul VI to engage, through dialogue, compromise, or agreements, with Eastern European countries run by communist regimes.

Although Dias retired at the age of 75 and Parolin was named as nuncio to Venezuela in 2009, Cardinal Zen said that ever since Parolin’s re-entry into the Vatican scene as Pope Francis’ Secretary of State in 2013, he has continued to promote Casaroli’s political approach to China.

Parolin, he said, is kind and is “gifted with an extraordinary diplomatic art,” but nonetheless continues “to be obsessed with Ostpolitik…[he] willingly offers his collaboration, giving the desired information and sparing the worrying parts.”

In his view, Zen said those who back the deal want “compromise without limits, they are already willing to completely surrender.”

Based on what Pope Francis has told him and Archbishop Savio Hon, who was born in British Hong Kong and is currently apostolic nuncio to Greece, Zen said it’s clear that the Pope “didn’t know the details” of the planned deal.

“We all know that the indications of the Roman Curia are necessarily approved by the Pope,” he said, adding that faithful from the Chinese continent “do not complain about the Pope due to certain misunderstandings.”

“If he signs any deal they want, we can only accept it, without protest,” he said. “But before the eventual signing, it is our right to make the truth about things known, because this can change the direction and avoid serious dangers for the Church.”

Cardinal Zen’s latest critique was published in Chinese on his blog Feb. 24, and was translated and published in Italian on the blog of veteran Vatican analyst Sandro Magister.

The post centers on a conversation Zen had with a priest from continental China, Fr. Geng Zhanhe, responding to different points Geng apparently made in support of the deal.

Rumors of the proposed agreement have been gaining steam in recent weeks, with sources close the situation saying the accord is “imminent” and could come as early as this spring. If the deal is reached, the Vatican is expected to officially recognize seven bishops who are out of communion with Rome, including 2-3 whose excommunications have been explicitly declared by the Vatican.

Most notably, the new deal would also apparently outline government and Vatican roles in future episcopal selection. The details of the deal would reportedly be similar to the Vatican’s agreement with Vietnam, in which the Holy See would propose three names, and the Chinese government would choose the one to be appointed bishop.

Currently every bishop recognized by Beijing must be a member of the patriotic association, and many bishops appointed by the Vatican who are not recognized or approved by the Chinese government have faced government persecution.

In his blog post, Cardinal Zen criticized the fact that as one of two Chinese cardinals, he has not been made aware of the contents of the agreement. “Certainly they can’t make public all the contents of the negotiation,” he said, but as one of the two cardinals for China, “would I not have the right to know the contents?”

Yet even if the contents of the deal were commonly known, “should we just wait and hold hands and make critiques only once it’s been accomplished?”

Zen said the “democratic election” of new bishops in China by the “illegitimate episcopal conference” would mean that it is really the government who elects the prelates, so the “final word” of the Pope “cannot save his function; the formality of maintaining pontifical authority will hide the fact that the real authority to name bishops will be placed in the hands of an atheist government.”

If Francis were to sign the agreement tomorrow, Zen said he “could not criticize it,” even if he doesn’t understand the decision. But until then, “I have the duty to speak with a loud voice according to my conscience, I have the right to reiterate that this is a bad agreement!”

He noted that China is increasingly tightening its grip on religious activity in general, and pointed to a new crackdown put into place Feb. 1 which, among other things, bans anyone under 18 from attending religious services. It’s also forbidden to hold any sort of youth group activity or summer camp, even if it’s not held at a church.

Asking why the Chinese government is suddenly becoming so strict with the clandestine Church after looking the other way for many years, Zen said this is because “the Holy See is helping the authorities of the government to do this.”

Responding to the argument that if a deal is not reached the Chinese government would increasingly appoint illegitimate bishops, eventually leading to schism, Zen said having the government control the Church in China independently of the Holy See is already schismatic.

“Will it be [schismatic] with only an increased number of illegitimate bishops?” he asked. “Would it not still be worse if the Pope were to bless the bishops chosen by the government and the Church is controlled by the government?”

Zen then referred to a comment made by Fr. Geng reflecting that while it might seem unjust to ask legitimate bishops to step down in favor of those who are illegitimate, which the Vatican has done in at least two cases, it was also unjust for God the Father to ask his only Son to die on the cross.

“It’s true that the Father sacrificed the Son, but it was man who crucified him,” Zen said, and pointed to the verse in scripture when Jesus told Pilate that “those who handed me over have the greater sin.”

“All those who made him die sinned,” Zen said. “Certainly Christ could forgive them, but they didn’t become apostles.”

“Don Geng,” he said, referring to the priest and his acceptance of the deal, “does not know how to distinguish between abject sale and suffering oppression, voluntary suicide and the wound suffered, shameless surrender and unhappy failure. How sad!”



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From North Korea to Catholicism: Mi Jin’s answered prayer

February 16, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 16, 2018 / 09:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During her childhood in North Korea, Mi Jin Kang never believed in the existence of God, until one person began to spark her curiosity.

“From school education, I learned that religion is a drug,” Mi Jin told CNA, “However, I heard the story of God from a girl that I met in North Korea before my escape. This was the first step to belief.”

“Before escaping North Korea, the story of God was a curiosity and miraculous,” said Mi Jin who decided to escape North Korea in 2009, at the age of 40.

“When I escaped from North Korea, I prayed with my two hands,” remembered Mi Jin, “When my prayer to God at the moment of escape was answered, I decided to be a child of God.”

“It was especially this prayer to God at the moment of escaping from North Korea that led me to be a believer during the process of settling in South Korea.”

Though she did not share details of her escape, many North Korean defectors are helped to South Korea by a network supported by Chinese Christians.

In South Korea, an order of Korean religious sisters taught Mi Jin and other North Korean defectors about the Catholic faith. Mi Jin learned about Saint Therese the Little Flower from the sisters.

At her baptism, Mi Jin took a new Christian name, as is the custom for Korean Catholics. She became Teresa.

“I wanted to be like Saint Teresa, who lived a faithful life,” Mi Jin said.

When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, Mi Jin was invited by the Korean bishops to see  Pope Francis face-to-face, in the front row of the beatification Mass for 124 Korean martyrs. She also attended to Pope’s Mass in Seoul’s historic Myeongdong Cathedral.

“I got to experience the glory of a Mass close to the Pope,” said Mi Jin.

Mi Jin now works as a journalist in South Korea at the Daily NK, helping others to understand what life is like inside the world’s most opaque country.

Mi Jin told CNA that American Catholics can help North Koreans. “I think it is necessary to provide humanitarian assistance for people who are in need in North Korea. I also hope that support for organizations who are broadcasting to reach out to residents in North Korea, such as Daily NK, can help it go smoothly.”

Mi Jin especially encouraged prayer for North Korea. “I hope that Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea realizes economic democratization for North Korean’s true freedom and life by giving up nuclear weapons.”

She also “hopes to see the unification Korea as the relationship between North and South Korea has developed in a positive way like recently.”

Mi Jin told CNA that she has been watching the Pyeongchang Olympic Games everyday. Her favorite event to watch is skiing.

Hyo Jeong Kim assisted with translation for this story.


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Slander lawsuit against Guam’s suspended archbishop dismissed

February 15, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Hagatna, Guam, Feb 16, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Guam court has dismissed part of a defamation lawsuit against Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, who is facing several accusations of sexual abuse in the 1970s.

The archbishop had publicly renounced the sexual abuse charges in a 2016 statement soon after the accusations were made, saying there were “intentional lies.”

The archbishop’s accusers brought a two-part defamation case against him shortly after his 2016 statement. Guam Pacific Daily News reported that the plaintiffs were seeking $500,000 each for a total $2 million in defamation charges.

In recent decision, Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo dismissed the slander case but will allow the libel case to stand.

“It dismissed half the suit essentially…the complaint is two-fold: it’s a defamation suit. One for libel. One for slander. The slander was dismissed so all that’s remaining is libel,” said the archbishop’s attorney, Jacque Terlaje, according to Kuam News.

The court instructed the defendant to “seek dismissal of the suit based on the affirmative defenses of qualified privilege,” Terlaje said.

“If someone accuses you of sex abuse, and in this context in a public forum… every person has the right to defend against that, to repel the allegations of abuse is the language that is used by many courts.”

Archbishop Apuron has been accused by four former alter boys of sexual molestation in the 1970s, when Apuron was a parish priest at Mount Carmel Parish in Agat. The allegations were made public in 2016.

In January 2018, the archbishop’s nephew accused him of rape around 1989 or 1990.

The archbishop Apuron continued to deny all allegations. “God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me include this one,” he said in January, according to Guam Pacific Daily News.



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Court likely to withdraw charge of key accuser in Cardinal Pell abuse case

February 15, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Melbourne, Australia, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard Wednesday that a charge related to a key witness in the case against Cardinal George Pell, accused of historical sexual abuse, is likely to be withdrawn.

In the Feb. 14 hearing, the director of prosecutions for the Melbourne Magistrates Court said that while they had not decided on the matter, the charge of a key complainant who died in January would likely be withdrawn.

Defense attorney Ruth Shann argued against the man’s credibility, saying Pell’s legal team would be examining the credibility of the “unreliable” witness when the formal four-week committal hearing begins March 5.

The witness, Damian Dignan, who died of leukemia in early January, and a fellow classmate at St. Alipius school in Ballarat accused Pell in 2016 of inappropriate sexual behavior when they were minors. The cardinal had previously been accused of acts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961.

Shann said Dignan’s complaints – which he made to Australia’s Royal Commission in 2015, nearly 40 years after the alleged abuse, after reading about other cases in the commission in newspapers – had a “domino effect” in terms of other people contacting the police.

She said Pell’s lawyers had subpoenaed material from the Dignan’s lawyer and that they would pursue material connected to his complaint whether it was included as part of the case or not, since he was the “starting point,” and other accusers who spoke out after can’t be understood without first dealing with their knowledge of Dignan’s own complaint.

Pell’s legal team last week subpoenaed medical records for other complainants to build their argument, however, the magistrate overseeing Wednesday’s hearing, Belinda Wallington, denied the request due to a lack of what she believed was “substantial probative value” in the case.

She also questioned a request for a complainant’s medical records from Justice Health, which provides medical services for Victorian prisoners, saying she would delay her decision until a hearing next week, the Australian reports.

This week’s hearing took place Feb. 14 in Melbourne, and is the latest step in the ongoing case against the cardinal, who in June 2016 was charged by Victoria state police of multiple instances of historical sexual abuse.

After the charges were announced, Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and a member of the Pope’s council of nine cardinal advisers, was granted leave from his post by Pope Francis in order to return to Australia for the trial.

Cardinal Pell, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966, has pled not guilty to the multiple counts of sexual abuse, and has maintained his innocence from the beginning.

“I am innocent of these charges, they are false,” he told journalists June 29, 2017, after the charges were announced, adding that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Pell has testified multiple times before Australia’s Royal Commission denying abuse charges and is known to have spoken out against sexual abuses in the past.

“It is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors,” stated Holy See spokesman Greg Burke last summer.

However, Burke also underscored the importance of respecting the proceedings of the Australian justice system, which will ultimately “decide the merits of the questions raised.”


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Expert says religious freedom critical for Vatican-China bishop deal

February 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Feb 14, 2018 / 11:06 am (CNA).- A missionary priest and expert on the Church in China has expressed caution, and a limited optimism, about a rumored agreement between China and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops.

Fr. Bernard Cervellera is the editor-in-chief of Asia News, a media project of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, PIME.

In an interview with CNA, he said that an accord could lead to greater freedom for Catholics in the Communist country, though he questioned the Chinese communist party’s intentions, asking whether true religious freedom is possible under a regime that so far has sought to eradicate religion.

The priest stressed that if an agreement is reached, the Vatican will need to push “for more religious freedom.”

“You can’t simply deliver the Church, but there must also be more religious freedom,” he said.

Asia News covers the Church in China closely, and reported the news that in October 2017 a Holy See delegation went to China asking two bishops – Peter Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou in and Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin of Mindong– to step down in favor of government-appointed bishops.

In 1951 Beijing broke official diplomatic ties with the Vatican. Since the 1980s they have loosely cooperated in episcopal appointments, however, the government has also named bishops without Vatican approval.

The result has been an increasingly complicated and tense relationship between the government-supported Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the so-called “underground Church,” which includes priests and bishops who are not recognized by the government.

Many Catholics parishioners, priests and bishops who have rejected government control have been imprisoned, harassed and otherwise persecuted. Churches have also been destroyed by the Chinese government.

Currently every bishop recognized by Beijing must be a member of the patriotic association, and many bishops appointed by the Vatican who are not recognized or approved by the Chinese government have faced government persecution.

However, as part of a proposed agreement, which sources close the situation have said is “imminent” and could come to fruition as early as this spring, the Vatican is expected to officially recognize seven bishops who are out of communion with Rome, including 2-3 whose excommunications have been explicitly declared by the Vatican.

Most notably, the new deal would also apparently outline government and Vatican roles in future episcopal selection. Reportedly, the details of the deal would be similar to the Vatican’s accord with Vietnam, in which the Holy See would propose three names, and the Chinese government would choose the one to be appointed bishop.

Cervellera told CNA that the Chinese government has tended to view religions as dangerous sources of terrorism and division, which threaten societal coexistence.  

For that reason, he said, making a concession for the sake of a deal is “likely the step that’s needed to show that the Church isn’t interested in overthrowing the Chinese government.”

Referring to recent statements made by Cardinal Joseph Zen, Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong and a leading opponent of the deal, Fr. Cervellera told CNA that “this agreement is an agreement that doesn’t ‘sell’ the Church,” but depending on how much the Vatican is willing to concede, could place the Church’s fate “completely in the hands of the government.”

Cervellera pointed to a government crackdown on religion, involving a stricter enforcement of rules which, as of Feb. 1, ban anyone under 18 from attending religious services. It’s also now forbidden to hold any sort of youth group activity, even if it’s not held at a church, he said.

Cervellera said that a fellow priest had observed that the government “has turned churches into a special type of ‘nightclub’ only for adults.”

If young people are removed from religion, he said, “you are practically condemning religions to death,” and this “was always the project of the Chinese Communist Party, always. Because the Patriotic Association was born to control religions so that little by little…they die from suffocation.”

On the other hand, he said, a deal Vatican deal with the government on appointing bishops could “facilitate the Vatican in deciding the candidates without problems, and help (with) the daily management of the Church,” he said.

But if the Vatican doesn’t insist on more breathing room, “both the official and the underground, the Church will continue being suffocated. Because what is lacking is religious freedom.”

On Monday a group of 15 influential Chinese Catholics, most of whom are from Hong Kong, wrote an open letter to bishops’ conferences around the world voicing their opposition to the deal, saying the government should have no role in choosing bishops and warned of schism should an accord be reached.

The signatories, which include Hong Kong politicians, university professors, lecturers, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists, specifically referenced the seven “illicit” bishops in question, saying “they do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly.”

“If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.”

However, on Sunday, Feb. 11, Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin of the Mindong Diocese – one of the bishops asked to step down by the Vatican delegation in 2017 – said he would be willing to step aside in favor of government-backed Bishop Zhan Silu, who was formerly excommunicated by Rome.

According to the New York Times, Bishop Guo – who has placed in detention multiple times and is currently living under police surveillance – said he would respect any agreement that is reached, and that if he were presented with an official, verifiable Vatican document asking for his resignation, “then we must obey Rome’s decision.”

“Our consistent stand is to respect the deal made between the Vatican and the Chinese government,” he said, explaining that “the Chinese Catholic Church must have a connection with the Vatican; the connection cannot be severed.”

Though he would respect any deal that is reached, Guo also cautioned that there is still hesitancy on the part of Chinese authorities to let the Vatican have a final say over Catholic spiritual life, and that while they might not explicitly say the local Church has to “disconnect” from Rome, this has at times been implied.

What the Chinese authorities don’t realize, he said, is that by having the local Church cut ties with the universal Church would make Chinese Catholics “second-class believers,” because Catholics in other countries get to have a say in the rules that govern the global Church, whereas Chinese faithful don’t.

Guo said he at one point told the Chinese government that “when you restrict churches in China to contact Rome, in fact you are slapping your own face…We need to participate so that the Chinese voice” is not lost, but is heard within the universal Church.

However, despite recent crackdowns and a lingering reluctance on the part of the government, Guo said he believes restrictions on Catholics have loosened, and “the government is gradually opening up to it.”

In his comments to CNA, Fr. Cervellera said a deal would certainly make the process of choosing bishops easier, and it could open wider channels of communication with between the Vatican and the government.

“Now it’s truly complicated for the Vatican to make their needs heard to the Chinese Church,” so an agreement could make things easier, but “this doesn’t mean more free.”

Referring to rumors that the proposed deal would follow the Vietnam model, he said in this case “at least there is great assurance that the criteria in which the candidates are chosen is based on faith,” because with the patriotic association, the criteria are mainly in their own interests.

However, he voiced doubt that a deal might be as close as this spring, as authorities in the past have said multiple times that an agreement was near, but it never happened.

“I say this not because it’s pessimistic, but there are many, many problems inside the (Chinese community),” including an attitude on the part of some who don’t want an agreement.

Concerns have also been raised that should an agreement be made, it would potentially harm the Holy See’s relationship with Taiwan, as they are the island nation’s only European ally and one of only 20 countries who recognize their authority over Beijing.

On this point, Fr. Cervellera stressed that the agreement, “if it happens, is an agreement on the appointment of bishops, it’s not an agreement on diplomatic relations.”

In his view, “more time is needed” before discussing diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China.

Taiwan, he said, while having few allies, still has commercial offices all over the world, “and they are able to manage commercial relations throughout the world even without having this legal recognition from European countries. I think there will always be the possibility.”

If the Holy See lands this deal with China, “I don’t think it will be a big problem [for Taiwan],” he said, because “it’s not that the Vatican can forget about Taiwan, because it’s always a lively Church, so the Vatican must have relations with the community of Taiwan.

Overall, though skeptical, Fr. Cervellera said he hopes that if an accord is reached, it would help lead “to a greater influence of religions on Chinese society.”

A big problem Chinese society has, he said, is that it is very materialistic and lacks values, so beyond the “so-called national consciousness” that seeks to control and subordinate citizens, “there is nothing.”

“So to find a way to give spiritual values, to inflate spiritual values to give dignity to the people, this is an important task,” he said.

“I don’t know if this will happen through an agreement on the nomination of bishops. I hope, but this is certainly the mission of the Church, the entire global Church and the universal Church regarding China: to do it in such a way that Chinese development is a development inside the dignity of the human person…I hope that the Church is able to make [China] more human.”



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Amidst the Pyeongchang Games, remembering Korea’s martyrs

February 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 13, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the 2018 Winter Olympic Games continue in Pyeongchang, the world is watching Korea for more than just sports.

The sister of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, was present at the games’ opening ceremony where athletes from both Koreas marched together under an inter-Korean flag.

Vice President Mike Pence stated that U.S. policy will remain unchanged after his trip to the region. Pence said, “new strong sanctions are coming very soon and the maximum pressure campaign will only intensify until North Korea abandons its nuclear program” in a post on Twitter on Feb. 12.

As tensions on the Korean peninsula remain high, Catholics there are likely remembering the witness of Korea’s first native-born priest, the martyred Saint Andrew Kim Taegon.

“St. Andrew Kim Taegon exhorted believers to draw from divine love the strength to remain united and to resist evil,” said Pope St. John Paul II on his third and final papal trip to South Korea, in 2001.

Korea’s first priest, Andrew Kim Taegon, was born 1821 into an aristocratic Korean family that eventually included three generations of Catholic martyrs.

Kim’s great-grandfather died for his Catholic faith in 1814, decades before the first Catholic missionary priests arrived on the peninsula from France.

“The first Christian community in Korea [is] a community unique in the history of the Church by reason of the fact that it was founded entirely by lay people,” said John Paul II at the canonization of 103 Korean martyrs, including Andrew Kim Taegon, in 1984.

Andrew Kim traveled over 1,000 miles to attend seminary in Macau. While Kim was away at seminary, his father, Ignatius Kim Chae-jun, was martyred for his faith in 1839.

After Kim was ordained in Shanghai in 1845, he returned to his homeland to begin catechising Koreans in secret. Only 13 months later, he was arrested.

In his final letter from prison before he was tortured and beheaded, Kim wrote to Korean Christians:

“Dearest brothers and sisters: when he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded his Church; now he gives it increase through the sufferings of his faithful. No matter how fiercely the powers of this world oppress and oppose the Church, they will never bring it down. Ever since his ascension and from the time of the apostles to the present, the Lord Jesus has made his Church grow even in the midst of tribulations…I urge you to remain steadfast in faith, so that at last we will all reach heaven and there rejoice together. I embrace you all in love.”
During a century in which an estimated 10,000 Christians were martyred in Korea during waves of persecution by the Chosun Dynasty, Christianity continued to grow.

“The splendid flowering of the Church in Korea today is indeed the fruit of the heroic witness of the martyrs. Even today, their undying spirit sustains the Christians in the Church of silence in the North of this tragically divided land,” said John Paul II at the martyrs’ 1984 canonization.

In 1989, at South Korea’s Olympic Gymnastics Hall, Saint John Paul II again pointed young people to look to those martyrs, as the Korean people continued to grapple with the peninsula’s division.

“Your martyrs, many of them of your own age, were much stronger in their suffering and death than their persecutors in their hatred and violence. Violence destroys; love transforms and builds up. This is the challenge which Christ offers to you, young people of Korea, who wish to be instruments of true progress in the history of your country. Christ calls you, not to tear down and destroy, but to transform and build up!” the Pope said.

“The Korean nation is symbolic of a world divided and not yet able to become one in peace and justice,” the Pontiff said on the same papal trip, “yet there is a way forward. True peace – the shalom which the world urgently needs – springs eternally from the infinitely rich mystery of God’s love.”

“As Christians we are convinced that Christ’s Paschal Mystery makes present and available the force of life and love which overcomes all evil and all separation,” St. John Paul II continued. “the Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ’s “peace” because it is the memorial of the salvific redemptive sacrifice of the Cross.”

When speaking of peace on the Korean peninsula, Pope St. John Paul II had the following reminder:

“We must listen carefully to Christ’s words: ‘I do not give (peace) as the world gives (it).’ Christ’s peace is not merely the absence of war, the silencing of weapons. It is nothing less than the communication of ‘God’s love that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.’”