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In China, Church and State don't separate easily
In China, separation of Church and State is so fluid a concept that it cannot become reality. Consider the career of Michael Fu Tieshan, the bishop of Beijing and, as chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the highest Catholic official in China.
In 1999, when the Communist Party launched a campaign against Falun Gong, Bishop Fu joined the heads of the other officially sanctioned religions in China to condemn the group. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have been beaten and tortured, thousand tortured to death, for practicing this traditional exercise and meditation form. Some might think that this in some way clashed with the concept of “Love thy Neighbor.” Bishop Fu apparently sees no problem there.
In 2000, Bishop Fu traveled to New York to attend the Millennium Summit, a gathering of religious leaders from around the world. There he said, "Some people want to trample on the sovereignty of other countries under the pretext of protecting religious human rights." Surprisingly he was not denouncing China, but rather the Dalai Lama, following up on a press campaign that leveled harsh criticisms against the Dalai Lama's presence at the Millennium Summit. According to the "China Daily" newspaper, the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile since he fled from Tibet in 1959, "is not a peacemaker but an agitator"; hence, it would be "absolutely inappropriate that he be invited to, or that his presence be permitted at, the Millennium Summit."
The newspaper also published statements of Bishop Fu saying that the Dalai Lama was involved in "secessionist" activities in Tibet, where there have been "revolts," making his presence in the Millennium Summit inappropriate.
To some, these might seem like political, not religious pronouncements.
As Bishop of the Patriotic Catholic Church, Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan does not recognize Papal authority. He does recognize the authority of the National People’s Congress, which voted him as it’s Vice–President on March 13, 2002
L’espresso Online, an Vatican newsletter, reported in 2002 that Bishop Fu “is the president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and, together with the old-school Communist Ye Xiaowen, the director of the Office of Religious Affairs, he is at the controls of the repressive machine that suffocates religious rights in China. In February the two undertook a propaganda campaign in the United States and Canada to show that there is no persecution in China.
“Giulio Jia Zhiguo, the bishop of Zhending in Hebei, the region with the highest concentration of Catholics, was arrested a few days before the parliamentary session that would name Fu Vice-President, to prevent him from publicly criticizing the nomination.”
Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, formerly director of Fides, the news agency of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, wrote about the election in a March 16, 2002 article for Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops conference: “From a personal point of view, for Fu Tieshan it is the culmination of a long career of complete obedience to the party. Michele Fu was the only churchman who defended the actions of the army after the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. For more than a year he has been traveling all over the world promoting the outlawing of…Falun Gong, not only in China, but in every country.”
This July, Bishop Fu was back at it, attacking the Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. Bishop Zen, who is a member of the Catholic, not the Communist, hierarchy, made the mistake of opposing Hong Kong’s Article 23 legislation, which was forced on Hong Kong by the Chinese government and would have stripped Hong Kong citizens of most of their civil and human rights, and would have led to the banning of any organization not approved by the Communist regime, including Falun Gong and the Catholic Church.
On July 25, the official China Daily newspaper carried a signed commentary denouncing Bishop Zen by name. It said: "Recently, a few leaders of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese have violated Jesus Christ's principle: 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.' They have discarded their neutral and benign role and are intervening in politics in a high profile."
As is customary in a communist campaign, the diatribe against Bishop Zen sought to isolate him and his followers as "a minority of the members of the Catholic church's top echelon" who are "wantonly imposing their political views on their members and, in their clerical capacities, encouraging them to participate in political activities.
(In a slightly contrasting statement, Bishop and soon-to-be Vice-President Fu said in a speech delivered at the University of California at Los Angeles on August 22, 2000, that Chinese religions are also getting themselves involved in participating in politics, just as other members of the society. Incomplete statistics show that 17,000 Catholics are members of their local government political consultative conference and people's congresses. With suggestions and proposals absorbed into national or local laws and policies, Chinese religious groups are becoming an active element in the society, he said.)
Bishop Zen is not quite as isolated as Bishop Fu would paint him. One half million of Hong Kong’s notoriously apolitical citizens took to the streets in massive demonstrations to protest the loss of their freedom.
Bishop Fu expressed no concern for the souls of those citizens. He did express some concern about what happened in Hong Kong, saying he did not expect to see "improper behavior from clergymen who make it more complicated to improve relations between China and the Vatican.” Apparently Bishop Fu forgot that on October 1, 2000, at the National Day celebration commemorating the 51st anniversary of the founding of Communist China, he said that the Vatican has adopted a hostile policy toward China since 1949 and caused immeasurable losses to the growth of Catholicism in the country, and that the Vatican must repent for the wrongdoing it committed against the Chinese people in history.
One cannot blame Bishop Fu for following the Part Line so religiously. Here in America, we take separation of Church and State as a given. In China, where Bishops are Vice-Presidents and the official state religion is atheism, it may be more difficult, when rendering unto Caesar and rendering unto God, to determine who is who.
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