Commission for Church in China Focuses on Laity's Role

Reiterates Vatican Position on Religious Freedom and Bishops

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The fifth meeting of the Vatican commission on the Church in China concluded Wednesday, after focusing attention on the role of the laity in light of the upcoming Year of Faith.

Benedict XVI established the commission in 2007 to study questions regarding the life of the Catholic Church in China, where the government has established an "official" Catholic Church, causing faithful loyal to Rome to go underground.

The commission's final statement was released today, affirming that "with deep spiritual closeness to all brothers and sisters in the faith living in China, the Commission recognized the gifts of fidelity and dedication which the Lord has given to his Church throughout the past year."

Focusing on the issue of forming the laity, the commission noted, "they must enter ever more deeply into the life of the Church, nourished by doctrine, conscious of their being part of the Catholic Church, and consistent with the requirements of life in Christ, which necessitates hearing the word of God with faith." In this regard, it recommended the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an important tool.

It also called the lay faithful to be active in civic life: respecting life from conception till natural death, loving the family, and "promoting values which are also proper to traditional Chinese culture; by loving their country as honest citizens concerned for the common good. "

The commission also called Chinese laity to get involved with their parish communities and to become active in apostolates.

"The lay faithful, therefore, are called to participate with apostolic zeal in the evangelization of the Chinese people. By virtue of their baptism and confirmation, they receive from Christ the grace and the task to build up the Church," it affirmed.

Reports on the number of baptisms at Easter this year reflect a need for greater efforts in evangelization.

According to the Fides agency, during Easter 2012, a total of 22,104 baptisms were administered in the continental Catholic communities. "We cannot but consider that more than 22,000 baptisms at Easter, in a Catholic community like ours, Chinese, which has over 6 million members, represent only 0.33%. Instead, in the Diocese of Hong Kong, which counts 360,000 faithful, there were 3,500 baptisms at Easter, equivalent to 0.97%. So we need to reflect and do more to promote evangelization," Fides quoted a Chinese Church official as saying.

Fidelity

The China commission statement reported that the Vatican group focused as well on the plight of bishops in China.

"They need the Church’s prayer in a special way so as to face their difficulties with serenity and in fidelity to Christ," the commission affirmed.

The group lamented the situation of bishops being ordained without Vatican approval, and some legitimately ordained bishops participating in the ceremony. At the same time, it protested illegitimately ordained bishops participating in valid episcopal ordinations.

"The participants in the Plenary Meeting follow these painful events with attention and in a spirit of charity. Though they are aware of the particular difficulties of the present situation, they recall that evangelization cannot be achieved by sacrificing essential elements of the Catholic faith and discipline," the commission stated. "Obedience to Christ and to the Successor of Peter is the presupposition of every true renewal and this applies to every category within the People of God. Lay people themselves are sensitive to the clear ecclesial fidelity of their own Pastors."

The commission went on to note a decline in the number of vocations to the priestly and religious life in recent years.

It concluded with a call to the whole Church to recall May 24 as the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, a "particularly auspicious opportunity for the entire Church to ask for energy and consolation, mercy and courage, for the Catholic community in China."

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-34674?l=english