I still think of Xiamen as my diocese and Fr. Cai as my bishop. They’re on my mind when I pray and every time I go to Mass. My mind flashes to them every time we pray “for the Church around the world”. I wonder how they’re doing, even more so when I hear news from China.
Last weekend, I heard that the bishop of Fuzhou died. Fuzhou is the capital of Fujian (my province) and the seat of one of the province’s five dioceses. I only ever passed through Fuzhou and never went to church there, so I’m not at all familiar with the situation in that area. But this is what I learned from the article:
Bishop Yang was 91 when he died. He was the archbishop of Fuzhou (since 1995) but lacked government approval so he was exclusively a part of the underground church. He’d been a priest for 63 years but spent most of his life in prison – from 1955 to 1981, plus two more terms of 5 and 3 years.
His story reminds me of Fr. Jiang, the Xiamen priest who took a break of over a decade during his seminary studies to work in a labor camp.
It also reminds me that the size of China and the irregularity of rules means that Catholicism in China is not one thing in all times and all places. My experience with the Church in Xiamen was a great blessing, I never explicitly observed government interference in Church affairs, and I heard encouraging things about efforts towards reconciliation with the underground church, but things are not so good in all parts of China. There are weekly articles on priests and bishops being arrested.
Sometimes it seems like there’s more bad news than good, but at least there is good. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to witness the ordination of a bishop with papal approval, and I get excited all over again when new bishops join him, as the bishops of Taizhou and Yan’an did recently.
Bishop Xu, new bishop of Taizhou, is filling a seat that has been vacant for 48 years. He spent 25 years in prison and forced labor after his time at seminary. Bishop Yang, the new bishop of Yan’an, is young (46), closer to my bishop’s age – and like my bishop, he avoided the time of imprisonment and forced labor that so many Chinese priests went through. He was the first Chinese priest ordained after the seminaries re-opened in the 1980’s to earn a doctorate degree. His degree is in theology, and he earned it at the Pontifical University in Rome.
This is the truest quote I’ve heard concerning the Church in China:
It is not an exaggeration to say that everything you hear about the church in China is true at some time and at some place; and not true at another time and in another place.