BROOKLYN –– A high-ranking Vatican official from China says he doesn’t expect much to change in church-state relations with the new Chinese government.
“I don’t think there will be a big change in the immediate future for the religious policy in China. It’s not one of the immediate priorities of the new government. They have many other things to take care of,” said Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
He made the comments during a visit to the Diocese of Brooklyn that was part of a six-day trip to the United States. He was in the U.S. to attend a meeting of the board of directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies at the national office in New York.
China unveiled its new Communist Party leadership Nov. 15. The top ruling body, known as the Politburo Standing Committee, is composed of seven members who will take charge in March.
Xi Jinping, the new president, repeatedly called for a “great renewal” in his acceptance speech. Xi, who was vice president, also was promoted to chairman of the Central Military Commission at a time when the country aspires to become a maritime power.
Archbishop Hon explained that since the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution in China, people have been able to freely worship. The problem, he pointed out, is with “the structure and development of the church — especially for the hierarchy — the control is too much.”
The Chinese government demands the power of approval before a bishop can be appointed by the Vatican.
While in New York, Archbishop Hon visited with the Chinese community in Queens and celebrated Mass at St. John Vianney Church in Flushing.
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, accompanied by Msgr. Ronald Marino, vicar for migrants, and Msgr. Terrence Mulkerin, diocesan director of the Propagation of the Faith, presided at the liturgy.
The archbishop also expressed thanks to U.S. Catholics “for their great affection for other churches in need around the world. I’m really very grateful for the church in America and all the generous people. They really have been concerned about other churches in other countries.”
He also encouraged the local church to continue supporting the plight of immigrants. He asked that dioceses offer a welcoming spirit and hospitality and to assist the newly-arrived with finding employment and filing the proper immigration documentation.
“Quite a number of families want to have better opportunities for their children to receive a better education,” he said.
Archbishop Hon also visited New Jersey as well as Baltimore, where he attended a session of the U.S. bishops’ annual fall general assembly, and Washington, where he celebrated a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and attended a reception at the Vatican Embassy.
He was accompanied on his U.S. visit by Oblate Father Andrew Small, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
Wilkinson is editor of The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.