The Holy See had already announced that special indulgences could be obtained by pilgrims who-- with the proper interior dispositions-- travel to Rome or to the Holy Land during the Jubilee celebrations. But on November 1, Cardinal William Baum signed a decree allowing the same indulgences for people who are unable to travel to Rome or the Holy Land.
Cardinal Baum-- who signed the decree in his capacity as head of the Apostolic Penitentiary-- explained how indulgences could be obtained. The faithful who are unable to travel to Rome or the Holy Land should make a perfect act of contrition, and have the firm intention to receive the sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. With those intentions, they should then recite the Lord's Prayer and the Creed in front of a religious image, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.
In a special effort to help seafaring people plan a trip to Rome the Jubilee Year, the Pontifical Council for Migrants has proposed a special pilgrimage to the Vatican on June 1- 3, 2000, specifically for fishermen, naval workers, and others who work on the seas.
In a recent column in the archdiocesan magazine, Cardinal George wrote that "almost automatically, a statement which combines respect for human persons in both their sexual and family life and also in their political and economic life will be a source of puzzlement for those who cannot see the connection between these dimensions of human life."
"The social teaching of the Church," said the Cardinal, "is a constitutive part of the Gospel, and this latest statement is a useful tool for reflecting on the impact our faith is to have on our economic and political decisions as a body politic. The social teaching is of whole cloth, because all of it is rooted in the understanding of what it means to be human in the light of Jesus' death and resurrection."
The document, issued some weeks ago, stated among other things that every "candidate, policy and political platform should be measured by how they touch the human person; whether they enhance or diminish human life and dignity." Cardinal George stated that,"As Catholics - read the statement- we need to share our values, raise our voices, and use our votes to shape a society which protects human life, promotes family life, pursues social justice and practices solidarity."
Diplomatic sources in Beijing confirmed to "Fides" that last October there were three secret meetings with Patriotic Bishops. In addition, contacts were made with laymen and priests. Catholics who are loyal to the Communist regime have been able to hear the reading of documents being prepared to reach an agreement but without the ability to ask questions.
"Fides" had access to one secret document of the Chinese Communist Party that admits to interest in establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican, but it also confirms the denial of the principle of full religious liberty. In bureaucratic language, the text defines the stages necessary to neutralize the Holy See's influence on Chinese Catholics. Thus, on one hand doors are opened to diplomatic dialogue, and on the other there is increased control over the 10 million Catholics of the People's Republic.
The text makes three stipulations: 1) Each Christian community must be led by "a democratic committee," that is, by the Patriotic Association -- the Church controlled by the Party, which does not accept papal authority. 2) The Council of Chinese Bishops must obey the Conference of the Catholic Representatives, an organ that is controlled by the Party. 3) The clandestine Church -- loyal to the Pope--, which up until now has never accepted the government's interference in religious matters, must disappear. To accomplish this, the destruction of seminaries and convents, re-education, forced labor, and the isolation of unyielding priests and bishops are all foreseen.
Some professors of the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences have told "Fides" that the Communist Party "considers these diplomatic relations very important" since they would give China "a new image in the area of international politics and would demonstrate that the development of democracy is real, that reforms in Chinese society are a fact." These academic sources believe that relations will not be established immediately, but there could be surprises.
On October 25, "Taiyang" (The Sun), a Hong Kong newspaper, announced the imminent renewal of diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican before the end of 1999. On the same day, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, stated that "the Holy See desires to have good contacts with all countries and, therefore, also with China, where there is a Catholic community. But I cannot be more specific on news that we have not received bilaterally." The next day, Zhang Qiyue, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, admitted that China wants to establish relations with the Vatican, but reaffirmed the previous traditional conditions: the breaking of relations with Taiwan, and no involvement in "Chinese internal affairs, including religion."
On Thursday the Roman newspaper La Repubblica, echoed the widespread information published by the international agency "Fides," according to which there is a complete secret plan in China to repress the faithful of the Catholic Church. Similar information was corroborated by the missionary agency "Misna."
The acts of violence against Catholics in China have increased in the course of this year. In January, Fr. Li Qinghua, 31, a priest of the Yixian diocese, was tortured and an attempt was made to force him to have sexual relations with prostitutes. In February, Fr. Pei Junchaon, of the Zhengding diocese, and Fr. Chen Hekun were arrested. In May, Yan Weiping, 33, Vicar General of the Yixian diocese died in suspicious circumstances. Wang Qing, a seminarian of the Church of Baoding, was arrested and tortured. In June the visit of Christian families not registered with patriotic associations, were multiplied in the Guangdong zone. In August and September, Fr. Chu Guangyao, a clandestine priest from Shanghai, was arrested along with his parishioners. Unofficial Bishop Lin Xili, 81, of Wenzhou, was incarcerated together with two priests. In November, Bishops, priests and laymen of the unofficial Church were arrested in the regions of Hebei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Fujian.
"La Repubblica" published the anonymous testimony of a bishop of the North of China regarding persecutions. The bishop refers to the restrictions in which the pastoral activity of the Catholic Church must be carried out. There is no freedom of worship, priests cannot be ordained, nor can new seminaries be opened. The liberty of a priest of the official Church is even more restricted. He is controlled in all his undertakings, requiring permission for the smallest tasks. A priest of the clandestine Church, which is not authorized by the government, can at least secretly visit the faithful.
"I, on the other hand, being under house arrest, do not have the liberty to visit my faithful. Sometimes I undertake a mission secretly, but it is very difficult. I have lived under arrest from the moment Hong Kong was returned to China ... They have locked me in at home without the possibility of seeing my faithful. The priests and Sisters can only come two at a time or singly, but always secretly. If they are discovered by the government, they are punished with the confiscation of religious objects and money. Even when I say I am going to the city to see a doctor, they do not believe me: 'No doubt you are going to see your faithful,' they said with mistrust."
The bishop referred to the diocese's financial difficulties, which includes 40 priests, 50 seminarians and 100 Sisters. And he sent a moving message to his spiritual director, who had to flee from China: "Fr. Zhang, after our good-bye in 52, we have not seen each other again. You planted the seed of my vocation. Your friends of continental China have never forgotten you. We are united in the name of God. Although we are in different parts of the world, we work for the same Lord, we encourage and support one another mutually." And, in bidding farewell, he says: "I hope to do God's work with all my strength, but I am weak ..." ZE99111007 and ZE99111008
"They must go before a tribunal," Belo said, "because the crimes that they committed are not acceptable. Justice has not been done."
The 51 year-old Bishop, co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke in the Dili cathedral before an estimated crowd of 4,000 faithful which overflowed into the surrounding streets.
Belo mentioned that up to 1,000 people had been killed in the town of Suai, where dozens were allegedly killed while seeking refuge in the local church.
According to reports by the Associated Press, "International peacekeepers have found more than 100 bodies since their arrival on Sept. 20, but admit that tens of thousands of people have not yet been accounted for."
In fact, eyewitnesses during the violent rampages that swept the mainly Catholic island in August told how militia members regularly burned dead bodies in order to destroy evidence of the widespread massacres before peacekeeping troops could discover them in mass graves.
Bishop Belo also called on local and international organizations involved in rebuilding the territory to closely coordinate their efforts in order to restore a "normal life" to its inhabitants as soon as possible. ZE99111123