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New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have much in common, but little prospect of reconciliation


Change at the helm – New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have quite a bit in common

Habemus Papam (We have a Pope!) 我们有一个新主席 (We have a new President!)

Within 24 hours of each other two men assumed centre stage as leaders of the two greatest populations on our planet: In the Sistine Chapel Pope Francis – Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires – was elected the 266th pope and head of 1.2 billion Catholics (and Sovereign of the Vatican State), while inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People Chinese Communist Party (CPC) leader Xi Jinping became the seventh President of the People’s Republic of China, ruling over 1.4 billion people.

China and the Vatican have had no official relations since 1951 – for 71 years, the Vatican has maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, as Taiwan is formally known – and yet even with the uneasy relationship between China and the Catholic Church both newly appointed leaders actually have quite a bit in common. For instance:

  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing will rule over populations experiencing remarkable transformation, in which ‘21st century’-minded reformists and historical followers are losing faith – growing increasingly skeptical and critical of what they view as obsolete and outmoded traditional methods of governance and doctrine. However, there are still many conservatives within the Catholic Church and China who for the most part are opposed to reform, preferring to maintain the status quo and keep things the way they are.
  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing will lead hugely powerful and rich institutions whose very raison d’êtres are concern for the marginalised and disadvantaged, but whose supporting structures benefit from levels of advantage undreamed of by most of those they are meant to be serving. Both therefore want to be seen as thrifty, humble and genuinely concerned with the plight of the vulnerable and tackling the causes of poverty. 

– By choosing the name synonymous with the self-denial and poverty of the revered 13th Century preacher and friar, Italy’s patron saint Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, the son of an immigrant railway worker, already known for his humility, selflessness, and championing of the poor and vulnerable, signaled his intention to place the plight of the poor and marginalized at the heart of his papacy.  

– Despite his celebrated family ties to the CPC hierarchy, being the son of veteran revolutionary Xi Zhongxun (the reforming architect of China’s Special Economic Zones), at the age of 15, during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution he was part of a work brigade sent down by the CPC to the countryside village of Liangjiahe, an insignificant cave dwelling community located in remote and desolate yellow soiled mountains of Shaanxi province in northern China, to serve and learn from the grassroots. There he made a cave his home, patiently “ate bitterness (吃了苦头like the rest of us (villagers)” Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/11/world/la-fg-china-xi-20120212 , and laboured the yellow earth for seven years. Aligned with his rise as paramount leader, Xi Jinping has gone to considerable lengths to reconnect with such formative years by cultivating an image as a man of the grassroots who prefers frugality, humility and self-reliance.  Recently, in the run-up to his inauguration as President he vehemently spoken out against extravagance while underlining the need to close China’s yawning income disparities and pull its poor people out of poverty.

Change at the helm – New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have quite a bit in common

Pope Francis I – Back to core values: Emphasis on the poor and doctrinal conservatism

  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing both need to address damaging scandals caused by abuses of power and discord among their membership ranks that threaten the very fabric of their organisations.  Pope Francis needs to tackle the series of detrimental moral and financial disgraces involving the Vatican administration, Cardinals and other clerics that have afflicted the Catholic Church for years. Xi Jinping’s pressing task is to tackle unchecked corruption among officials that is eroding trust and belief in the CPC. Leadership changes at the top of Catholic Church and CPC have raised the hope that at last meaningful reform and revitalization is on the way. The future cohesiveness of both organisations lies in whether Pope Francis and Xi Jinping can successfully reverse the rot.
  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing are both known to be unwavering traditionalists on key issues. 

– Moderate Catholics hoping the church under the guidance Pope Francis will modify its social views in accordance with their own beliefs will have to wait much longer. The new Pontiff is an explicit opponent of contraception, women priests, clerical celibacy, and gay marriage, the latter which he considers “an attempt to destroy God’s plan”. Source: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/first-pope-from-the-americas-francis-raises-hopes-of-change-among-faithful-1.1324325

– Those amongst the burgeoning middle classes in China who like to think that Xi Jinping’s accession to the seat of power is going to result in a wave of political reforms will be sorely disappointed. Holding a doctorate in Marxist theory and ideological education from Tsinghua University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and as a former President of the CPC Central Party School, Xi Jinping is believed to hold much more conservative views than his father Xi Zhongxun (who expressed his opposition to the nature of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4th June 1989), a supporter of former ‘liberal’ CPC General Secretary Hu Yaobang. In speeches Xi has frequently called on rising cadres to immerse themselves in Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, declaring that political morality, “Marxist rectitude” and loyalty to the CPC are more important than professional competence. Source: “PLA Gains Clout: Xi Jinping Elevated to CMC Vice-Chairman,” China Brief, October 23, 2010. He was also an avowed supporter of the ‘Chongqing Model’ for upholding “core socialist norms”. Source: People’s Daily, December 13, 2010; Sina.com, December 10, 2010. [Note: The Chongqing Model was the series of social and economic policies adopted by Bo Xilai, the Chongqing CPC Chief, which epitomised increased state control and the promotion of a neo-leftist ideology. Following Bo’s removal in March 2012 the policies were either discontinued or scaled back.]

  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing were appointed to power through a guarded process in which the only persons who were allowed to participate were old men who are fully dedicated to the cause they stand for.

In terms of the likelihood of the Vatican one day switching its affiliation to Beijing, the similarities between the two established leaders as described above are cosmetic at best. Despite the growing appetite for spiritual values within mainland China’s officially atheist population, there is little prospect the CPC will recognise a foreign pope, rather than the secular Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, as the leader of all Chinese Catholics.  Besides faced with momentous internal challenges both the Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping will be too focused on ensuring the survival and prosperity of their own increasingly unmanageable institutions to care.

Source: http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=7Mnfy0l093k=

Additional source:  https://nialljoreilly.wordpress.com/2008/06/29/hangzhou-reflections-the-hangzhou-catholic-church-the-most-church-beautiful-in-china/  is an article about the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou.

Change at the helm – New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have quite a bit in common

President Xi Jinping – Back to core values: Emphasis on the poor and doctrinal conservatism

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China – Under The Hood: Hangzhou Catholic Church “The most beautiful church in China”

China - Under The Hood Hangzhou Catholic Church 2014 001

2014 – Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2009 - Easter outside Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate /  Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2009 – Easter outside Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Dedicated to ‘Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception’ (formerly known as the Church ofr the Saviour), Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate, which I attend, has long been
Address: 415 North Zhongshan Road, Hangzhou. 天主教堂 中山北路415号
Bus #s: 11, 28, 38
Tel #: 0571-85101503
English Mass Schedule:  Saturday 18.30 hrs
Chinese Mass Schedule: Sunday 06.30 hrs, 09.00 hrs, 19.00 hrs
considered one of the most serenely beautiful churches in China.  Remarkable is the wonderful quality of silence experienced within, given that bustling Zhongshan Road is only a very short distance away. Known simply as Tiānzhǔ Táng (天主堂), the three naves Catholic Church sporting a conspicuous baroque facade is the only Catholic Church currently in service within the city of Hangzhou. Indoors, the three naves (or one nave and two aisles) are separated by two rows of columns running longitudinally down the granite tiled flooring to the sanctuary of the main altar and apse area which is adorned by a large, eye-catching, fresco depicting Christ watching over his Hangzhou flock by way of bright rays of light beaming through clouds of darkness over the West Lake. Striking in its simplicity the fresco based on typical western artistic styles was painted by local Hangzhou artists.  Natural light, beaming through stain-glass windows of saints, brightens the inside and the aisles on either side of main aisle lead down to side-altars worshiping statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. Placed at intervals along the side walls of the outer naves are plaques depicting the Stations Of The Cross, and there is also one confessional booth.
2009 - Faithful gathered to celebrate Easter Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2009- Faithful gathered to celebrate Easter Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

History of the Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

It will be difficult to find anyone locally who knows much about its history. Here’s what I found out. Likely inspired by the baroque designed Chiesa del Gesu Jesuit church in Rome, which was the model for many Jesuit churches, the first Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou was built in 1661 by Italian Jesuit pastor, missionary, cartographer, and historian, Martino Martini (Wei Kuang Guo / 卫匡国).

Was the Chiesa del Gesù Rome the original prototype for designing Hangzhou's Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception?

Rome’s Chiesa del Gesù

It had taken two years to construct and was hardly built when on June 6th Martino Martini died from cholera in Hangzhou.  He is buried in the Dafangjing Jesuit Cemetery (大方井卫匡国等公墓) on the north side of Beigao Feng (北高峰). It seems that twenty years later Martino Martini’s body was discovered in a relatively unblemished state, whereupon it became a venerable object of cult-like worship, not only for Christians. In 1877, in a bid to put an end to what it perceived to be idolisation, the Catholic Church hierarchy had Martini’s body reburied.

Portrait of Martino Martini founder of Hangzhou Catholic Church by Michaelina Wautier 1654

Portrait of Martino Martini by Michaelina Wautier 1654

As the leading China geographer of the 18th Century, Martino Martini is celebrated as the first to undertake the study of Chinese history and geography with meticulous scientific impartiality. Added acclaim in China and beyond alludes to Martino Martini’s unique awareness of Chinese culture and profound understanding of all things Chinese as being the bedrock from which modern sinology has developed. During the reign of the Qing Emperor Kangxi, in 1691 an anti-catholic drive coordinated by Zhang Penghe (张鹏翮), the Confucian governor of Zhejiang Province, resulted in the practice of Catholicism being outlawed throughout Zhejiang. The Italian Jesuit Prospero Intorcetta, who had already lived in Hangzhou for 13 years, was expelled for staying in Hangzhou without authorisation, publishing books, circulating pamphlets throughout Zhejiang, and baptising over 1,000 people. Governor Zhang subsequently took over the Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception ordering all its books to be burned and printing woodcuts destroyed.

The following year, under pressure from Jesuits and Manchu Prince Songgotu, Zhang Penghe in an apparent about turn commanded that the Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception be completely repaired. However, Zhang continued to arrest and persecute Catholics, while several churches in Hangzhou, Haining and Jiaxing which didn’t have residing priests were confiscated.

In late 1692 the Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou was badly damaged by a fire, remaining in a state of disrepair until 1699 when Emperor Kangxi himself passed by the church.  After one of his ministers had inspected the interior Kangxi granted 200 silver taels to complete the restoration. Two characters “敕建” (chi jian) – meaning “built by order of the emperor” – were inscribed on to the gate.

Hangzhou Catholic Church altar 1990

1990 – Altar in Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

In 1730 Kangxi’s son Emperor Yongzheng proscribed Catholicism and Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception was converted into the Tao Buddhist temple of the Celestial Empress, Tian Hou Gong (天后宫). The characters “敕建” were chiseled off the gate. It was not until 1848 that it became a working Catholic church again when a group of Dutch, French and English Lazarists took it over.

Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2013 – Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception – Stained Glass Window featuring Pope Saint John Paul II and Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta

Further disruption occurred during the Cultural Revolution when all religious activities ceased. For a period of 12 years the main church hall was divided into 10 small cells for imprisoning criminals, while the other church buildings were also divided up as residences. On December 12th 1982 Mass was once again celebrated at the re-opened church, while by 1986 all remaining families who had lived there during the Cultural Revolution had been relocated to new residences.

The Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception is now listed as an historic site under the protection of the Municipal Government of Hangzhou.

2009 - Faithful gathered to celebrate Easter Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2009 – Faithful gathered to celebrate Easter Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA)

Prior to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 the Catholic Church in China was under the control of foreign missionaries, and some Church organisations opposed communist rule. In 1957 the secular Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) was set up to organise the Catholic Church in China under government patronage. It no longer recognised the authoritative role of the Pope as the leader of Chinese Catholics, and in the appointment of new bishops. The Vatican immediately declared the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association incompatible with Catholic doctrine and since then there have been no formal diplomatic links between the Vatican and Beijing.  An underground Catholic Church said to number millions of Chinese Catholics still remains faithful to the Bishop of Rome.

2009 - Faithful pray ''Our Father' at Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2009 – Faithful pray ”Our Father’ at Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Today’s Mass at Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

The Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou is always filled to capacity for the 9.00 a.m.. Clear evidence of the growing appetite for spiritual values among mainland China’s officially atheist population, the worshipers represent a broad spectrum of men and women, young and old, all in thoughtful concentration. This church has a genuine feel to it and, given the unremitting pressures of daily life that abound in rapidly changing China, it is wonderful to observe and experience the congregation’s deep sense of spiritualism and respect for each other.  Streaming out of the church after the conclusion of Mass all appear at peace within, assured.

China - Under The Hood Hangzhou Catholic Church 2014 002

2014 – Faithful gathered to celebrate English Mass at Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

On the face of it, given that in spite of everything this is a Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association-operated church, this could be a Mass typical of any Catholic Church the world over. The choir sings the usual hymns (the acoustics are very good), while the benches at the foot of the left side-aisle hold a very energetic group of hearing impaired parishioners using sign language to communicate, their smiling facial expressions and fast-moving hands corresponding with every spoken word. There is holy water, a lively confessional, and communion, while the Our Father is prayed most fervently with hands raised high.  When it comes to offering each other the sign of peace there is that spontaneous outpouring of goodness and togetherness which typifies Catholic Church communities everywhere. The genuine sincerity is palpable.

If you did not have a chance to experience the serenity of a place like this you’d probably leave China thinking that in the rush to keep up with what is termed as “progress” everyone is only concerned with their own material well-being. As witnessed by the outpouring of compassion following the apocalyptic Sichuan Earthquake, and now today in the Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou such a thought would be entirely mistaken. I cannot visually / vocally see or hear any difference between this and Mass back in Ireland, expect for noticing that no offering was collected. I guess the official Catholic Church in China doesn’t have a problem with funding!
The most recent renovation of Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou was completed in 2012, and while the demolition of the front wall may have been designed to present a church that is more conspicuously open, the appearance of security camera above the nave ensures that worshipers are always under the watchful eye of the Party.
Loves You top at Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Usher wearing “Jesus Loves You” top at Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

English Mass Saturday 18:30 hrs

An English Mass, which is celebrated at 6.30 p.m. on Saturday evening, is typically attended by a colourful mix of Hangzhou’s foreign community from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.  The English mass pamphlet refers to the Pope (in a spiritual capacity) – indeed the wall of an office just inside the entrance gate hosts a large photo of the late Pope John Paul II.
1990 - Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

1990 – Hangzhou’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Immaculate / Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hangzhou / Hangchow

The archdiocese of Hangzhou, which at the time had less than 30,000 practising Catholics has not had a Vatican appointed bishop since 1956 following the death of  Archbishop Jean Joseph Georges Deymier (梅占魁). In June 2000, The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association appointed (now 91 years oldMatthew Cao Xiang-de (曹緗德) (a.ka. Cao Yude) as bishop, an appointment that prompted the Vatican to invoke canon 1382: “Both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a ´latae sententiae´ excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”. Source: Latae sententiae

Previous Archbishops of Hangzhou, Matthias Wu Guo-huan (吳國煥) (1958–1987),  John Zhu Feng-qing (朱峰青) (1988 – 1997) also had no papal mandate. 
[Thus article was updated: April 2018. Related article about the Catholic Church and China: “Accurate China Insight: New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have much in common, but little prospect of reconciliation”  https://nialljoreilly.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/change-at-the-helm/ ]
2008 - Former entrance (demolished in 2011)  to Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2008 – Former entrance (demolished in June 2008) to Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Easter 2012 - Newly renovated interior of Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Easter 2012 – Newly renovated interior of Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

Easter 2012 - Newly renovated interior of Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception
Easter 2012 – Newly renovated interior of Hangzhou Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception

2018

2018

2018

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Filed under 2018, Catholic Church, China, Hangzhou, Religion