Our Lady of Peking/Deliverance
THE VIRGIN MARY, EMPIRE FOUNDRESS
China is a monumental story. For she has inherited the "errors of Russia" and remains more strategically capable of standing up to the United States in the near future than Russia. But unlike State atheism which reigns in the Soviet Union, Mao's regime wanted to imitate the French Revolution and to subjugate the Church.
In China, it is not Islam but the Communist party that for the last eighteen months has turned its fury against "underground " Catholics in communion with Rome, razing some fifteen hundred churches and cathedrals, and torturing elderly dissident priests and bishops.
In opposition to the official Church, known as "patriotic" because of its allegiance to the party, "this underground Church" "is even more united in its faith and in its confidence of being the unique representative of the Vatican", explained to us one of the great witnesses of this tragedy, who needs to remain anonymous. The regime's intransigence has also pushed towards the Vatican 90% of the Catholics of the "official" Church who were impatiently awaiting the normalization of relations with Rome. The violent reaction of Peking to the canonization of Chinese Saints at the Vatican in October last year ["They deserved to die", declared the party] widened the gulf with the authorities. So much so that five bishops hastily appointed by Peking on January 6 with the regime's blessing, now find themselves extremely isolated in their communities. And the next sixteen candidates chosen by Peking have no wish to be consecrated without the Pope's approval.
The Communists affect to consider Christians as "imperialist spies", enemies of the Chinese nation. Mao Tse-Tung therefore began by expelling the internuncio and all the foreign missionaries who then numbered around three thousand. And, through the "Three Autonomies Movement" launched at the beginning of 1951, he instituted an autonomous Church consisting of the remaining two thousand five hundred Chinese priests and the four million faithful spread throughout a hundred dioceses.
Pius XII responded fiercely. On April 9, 1951, the Pope decreed ipso facto excommunication for all those bishops, whatever their rite or nationality, who had not been appointed or confirmed by the Apostolic See, as well as for any bishop involved in their consecration. On January 18,1952, in his Apostolic Letter Cupimus in primis ["We desire above all"], the Pope exhorted the Chinese people to resist the Communist persecution. On October 7, 1954, in his Encyclical Ad sinarum gentem, he advocated a certain autonomy for the Church of China, provided it remained in loyal submission to Rome.
The Maoist government responded with arrests and deportations to the barren regions of the West. The Church went underground, celebrating Mass in private houses and living under the continual threat of denunciation, imprisonment and torture.
In 1957 the government created an infernal machine worse than all the persecutions: the, Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. With its parishes and churches, it was placed under the authority of the Bureau of Religious Affairs and tasked with repressing "the hounds of the reactionary Vatican".
However, it was only with enormous difficulty that this "official Church" took form. At the beginning, it counted but one bishop. In 1958, two others were elected as the result of a "democratic consultation" and then solemnly consecrated despite the Pope's refusal to confirm their election. Twenty-four illicit consecrations followed in the course of that same year.
On June 29, a new Encyclical by Pius XII, Ad apostolorum principis, noted that the "patriotic" Church was in a state of schism and forbade Catholics to join it.
At the consistory of December 1958, John XXIII renewed this condemnation "against those who comply with the orders of the persecutors, to the point of accepting sacrilegious episcopal consecrations, and against those above all who have agreed to illegitimately occupy the post of other pastors, thereby paving the way for a deplorable attempt at schism."
Under the reign of Paul VI, the "Cultural Revolution" unleashed a period of terror, aggravated by the unbelievable tribute and mind-boggling encouragement lavished by this Pope not upon the martyrs, but upon the terrorists:
"We would like to tell the Chinese youth with what affection and emotion We watch their present progress towards the ideals of a new life, a life that is hard-working, prosperous and harmonious . .. We send our good wishes to China so far from Us geographically, but so near spiritually ... We would also like to speak about peace to those who today direct the life of continental China. We know how strongly this human and Christian ideal is shared by the Chinese people." [January 6, 1967]
But in China, far from worsening the rift, the persecution on the contrary restored the fabric of the Church's seamless robe: "patriotic" and "underground" Catholics were treated indiscriminately, both being executed or deported to "re-education centers". The "great leap forward" appeared to have exterminated the purest forms of Christianity, but even in the labor camps Christian communities endured, fulfilling the prophetic vision on which the Secret of Fatima ends:
"Beneath the two arms of the Cross, there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God."
After the death of Mao in 1976, religious practice was once more permitted, hundreds of churches were reopened, and bishops and priests, even dissident ones, were freed after more than twenty years of forced labor. It seemed that the death of Paul VI and the imminent approach of John Paul I, the resurrection of the Church in China under the aegis of the Blessed Virgin was beginning: on August 15, 1978, on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, a vast throng of Chinese Catholics poured into the cathedral at Nantang.
"They had at last been allowed to practice their religion in public and to receive the Sacraments. After more than twelve years of total silence, they resumed without any hesitation the rhythmical recitation of the Chinese prayers during the Mass. The priest, dressed in a rescued prison chasuble, celebrated the Mass of Saint Pius X. People lit great quantities of candles. A joy charged with intense emotion illuminated their faces and tears sparkled in the corners of their eyes. God's children had died. Now their moment of resurrection had arrived." [Jean Charbonnier, Histoire des chretiens de Chine, Desclee, 1992, p. 375]
After John Paul I's disappearance, history resumed the sorry course which Paul VI had stamped on it. John Paul II, who calls himself his spiritual son, holds his hand out to Communist China and receives, in response, nothing but insults and abuse, while the underground Church is persecuted for its fidelity to Rome.
Heroic fidelity to a Pope who betrays it! "Approximately 85% of the 'official bishops' are thought to have sought and obtained their legitimization by the Pope," writes Father Jean-Marie Bosc, of the Foreign Missions of Paris. "At the beginning of the year 2000 Jubilee, they wrote a significant pastoral letter containing ample quotations from the Pope's letter Tertio millenio adveniente in which they encouraged the faithful to enter into the spirit of the Jubilee, a time of reconciliation and forgiveness. They also invited them to take part in the various jubilee events organized throughout the dioceses. They spoke in particular about the distribution of wealth and asked that the debt of poor countries be reduced. Among other phrases, one reads statements like: 'The Church of China is faithful to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.' " [La Croix, 20 December 2000]
Spot the error! I doubt whether one reader in a thousand will have noticed the absence of the word Roman which forms the crux of the dispute. But if the Church of China is not united to Rome, how can she still be "one, holy, Catholic and apostolic"? Father Bosc continues: the Church of China "favors continuous friendly exchanges with the universal Church based on "mutual respect and equality". It holds such exchanges with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in accordance with the principle of non-subordination, non-interference and mutual respect. The "official" bishops encourage the faithful "to integrate themselves into Chinese culture and to develop a theology which accommodates both the Church and socialism." Father Bosc approves: "All of which is highly praiseworthy," he says, finally disowning the "underground" Catholics.
In a lengthy interview given on his return from China, Cardinal Etchegaray "recognized the fidelity to the Pope shown by the Catholics of the official Church", and at the same time "the heroic fidelity of the Church of silence". He concluded: "Ultimately it is a matter of one single Church whose common faith little by little seeks to surmount what has until now unfortunately separated 'underground' and 'official' Catholics."
Finally, Father Bosc takes the side of "official" Catholics against "underground" Catholics. He adds: "The Chinese authorities seem unaware of the fact that the Church evolves, and that she is very different from the Church of the last century. Today, particularly after Vatican II, she is considerably more flexible and modernized. Solutions can be found if one wants. But what is needed, on both sides, is a firm will to succeed."
This admonition appears to be addressed to the "authorities", but it is equally if not more aimed at the "underground" Church.
Fortunately, preceding Vatican II and high above it, there stands the Secret of Our Lady, without which we would be diabolically disorientated.
In Russia, the two-headed imperial eagle looks simultaneously towards both West and East. One understands why Putin restored this emblem of the tsars to his army's standards . . . Not wishing merely to turn his gaze towards the East, last July without a moment's delay he made a personal visit to Peking, before going on to meet the "Westerners" at Okinawa for the G8 summit. In his baggage he took with him some major projects for oil and gas pipelines, trade programs, and offers to modernize factories formerly built in China by their big Soviet brother. The aim was to renew not an ideological alliance but a geostrategic one . . . which failed to reckon with the plans of Heaven:
Throughout the eventful history of the evangelization of the "land of the Devil", as former missionaries called the Chinese empire, it was the cult of the Blessed Virgin that preserved the faith firmly fixed in the hearts of Catholics through the recitation of the Holy Rosary. When the Jesuits returned in the nineteenth century to the region around the Blue River, they encountered in one place after another small fishing boats from whence they heard rising the Ave Maria, intoned firmly by the mother and answered loudly by the children as they operated the oars or the fishing nets: "The Chinese have an extraordinary zeal for the Blessed Virgin," a missionary testified. In every situation, every event and occasion, they have recourse to Her; the majority of their churches are dedicated to Her.
In June 1924, when the first plenary Council was drawing to a close, the Apostolic Delegate, Mgr. Constantini, solemnly consecrated China to "Holy Mother Mary". In 1941, Pius XII granted the Church of China the privilege of solemnizing the feast of Mary Mediatrix of all Graces with the title of "Holy Mother, Queen of China". In 1946, Pius XII beatified twenty-nine Chinese Martyrs: "The beginning of our century and the land of China mark one of the brightest moments in the history of martyrdom," he declared. "Seldom before has there been seen such a rich and admirably varied army of Martyrs: Te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus. The whole surface of this vast empire was stained crimson with the blood of Christ's witnesses: men and women religious, missionaries hailing from distant regions and indigenous priests, men and women, the elderly, young people and children, from both the highest social levels and the humblest."
A WHITE LADY
The Immaculate Heart of Mary responded on several occasions and in various ways to this popular devotion with some striking miracles. We have previously recounted in an earlier newsletter the apparition of the "White Lady" who took the Christian village of Donglu under Her protective mantle during the terrible persecution of the Boxers. Imagine our emotion at hearing one of our Father's former parishioners telling us that in 1960 he had received at Villemaur, for a "missionary day", Father Tremorin, the former parish priest of Donglu. We recall that the latter had helped to make Donglu the "Lourdes" of North China in the years 1920-1930.
As for the apparition of the "White Lady", research into the archives of the Lazarists led Brother Thomas to discover that it had taken place in several parts of the Peking Vicariate run by French Lazarist missionaries, and also in the Franciscan and Jesuits missions of North China: "Wherever the missionaries defended themselves, the pagans saw in the night a 'White Lady' watching over their dwellings. The Christians saw nothing. But this is as it should be, for holy books say that miracles are for the unfaithful, not for the faithful: 'Signa non fidelibus, sed infidelibus.' "
A missionary stationed at Tien-tsin gave this testimony in June 1900, at the height of the persecution: "In many places, during the combat with the Boxers, the pagans themselves saw the Blessed Virgin in the middle of the Christians. Again, during the massacre of a certain Christian region, the pagans heard a heavenly music and understood that the dead were happy. Finally, two days ago, a dozen Christian guards stationed in a seriously threatened building near the gates of Peking, saw in the night a large white cross before which they fell down in adoration." [Annales de la Mission, vol. 65, p. 533]
Several days later, Petang [or Beitang], the Lazarists' usual place of residence in Peking, was besieged in its turn by thousands of Boxers reinforced by soldiers from the regular army. The siege lasted two months, from June 15 to August 15,1900. It was terrible, and were it not for the visible protection of the Immaculate, Queen of the Angels and Help of Christians, the missionaries and some three thousand Christians whom they had gathered, would all have been massacred. Mgr. Favier, Vicar Apostolic of Peking, had a chapel erected in thanksgiving, in the church of Beitang, in honor of Our Lady of Deliverance, represented as the Empress of China holding in Her arms the Child Jesus, who is depicted as an imperial prince.
HELP AND DELIVERANCE OF CHRISTIANS
In 1901, Mgr. Favier gave the mother house of the Lazarists in Paris a personal account of this dramatic siege: "It is already a marvelous event this defense of Petang and its 1400 meters of walls, by forty French and Italian seamen, without guns, against five or six thousand fanatical Chinese aided by powerful artillery. The vigilance and skill of their leader [Lieutenant Paul Henry, a brave man among other brave men and profoundly Christian! who would be killed by a bullet on July 30], and the heroism shown by the sailors do not suffice to explain these two months of victorious resistance against the relentless cannonade, gunfire, mines, furious attacks, etc.
"But what are we to make of this? Every night during those two months, the Chinese directed heavy gunfire at the roofs of the cathedral and the balustrade surrounding it. Why? wondered Paul Henry and the missionaries. There was no one there to defend the cathedral. After the liberation, the pagans provided the key to this mystery: 'How is it, they said, that you did not see anything? Every night, a white Lady walked along the roof, and the balustrade was lined with white soldiers with wings.' The Chinese, as they themselves affirm, were firing at the apparitions."
And the archivist who recorded these conference notes concluded: "Therefore, even though the memory of the piles of ruins fills him with sadness, Mgr. Favier expresses his absolute confidence in the Providence which thus manifested its protection. The good God wishes to save the missions of China. The persecution had been so cleverly organized, that it seemed that it was all over with the Catholic religion in China. But it is nothing of the kind, thanks be to God . . . Death gives birth to life. Blessed are those who succumb to death, they prepare the way for the final triumph, they are martyrs crowned by God."
Let us recall, among these martyrs, the admirable figure of Sister Helen de Jaurias, the Superior of the Sisters of the Charity in Petang, of whom it was said that she possessed the virtue and character of their foundress, Saint Louise de Marillac. Her siege diary provides us with a new proof of this: despite being overwhelmed by the weight of administrative duties akin to that of an army on campaign, despite having to lodge and even feed, besides her ordinary workforce, eighteen hundred women and children, and overcome by the burden of old age and fatigue, she still had the courage to sacrifice some of her rest to record the daily events of the siege as she experienced them. She continued this journal until August 17, that is until her death. She went, as she expressed it, "to observe from Heaven the triumph of Holy Church and the conversion of China" towards which she had worked for forty-seven years. On the day before she died, a company of French marines arrived to rescue the heroic defenders of Petang.
Can it really be heroes and saints such as these that the Chinese Communists have been denouncing for fifty years as "filthy imperialists in the pocket of the European nations"? Well, so be it! These missionaries and sailors, devoting their lives "to the most beautiful of causes" [Paul Henry], were indeed "imperialists": they wanted Jesus and Mary to extend Their empire over all hearts and to reign over this immense land darkened by paganism, and soon, alas, by communism.
ROMAN AND MARIAN ECUMENISM
Father Jean Charbonnier, of the Foreign Missions of Paris, concludes his Histoire des chretiens de Chine [Paris, 1992], with a chapter entitled: "A large family under Heaven". He writes: "To unify the large family of the children of God, is not this the prayer of Christ Himself? There is unfortunately a divergence of opinion on the means of effecting this unity: for the Chinese government, it is a question of unifying all the Christians of the country under the control of the State in the name of the political demands of the United Front and in the interests of modernization. For the Holy See and the faithful of China, it is a question of achieving religious unity by gathering all the sheep under the leadership of one single Pastor, the successor of Peter." [p. 393]
For the latter, fidelity to Rome, to the Vicar of Jesus Christ, is the heart, the very principle of the Catholic faith. It is a non-negotiable "doctrine of faith". In the early 1990's, a duplicated document was circulated among "underground" Catholics, written by a bishop from South Hebei, the region in which Donglu is situated: "In his opinion, priests who cooperate with the "Patriotic" Association are lying to themselves if they claim to have a peaceful conscience. They think that a purely exterior and formal adhesion does not involve the faith. But from the moment they accept a compromise on papal primacy, they are engaged despite themselves in a process which inexorably leads them to a progressive abandonment of the more essential articles of the Credo." [p. 395]
Exactly so! The whole goal of the Chinese government, inspired by Marxist materialism, is to lead Christians "to correct their outlook of individual salvation and to place themselves more fully in the service of the people. The difference between believers and non-believers is regarded as secondary compared to the common effort of modernization." [p. 390] And "official" Catholics let themselves be taken in . . . in the name of Vatican II! Even though, as Father Charbonnier acknowledges, "Christians in China have kept apart from the conciliar evolution ..., certain Catholic theologians, particularly those of the Guangqi Association founded in Shanghai, are keen to stress the Council's teachings on the service of man. They also interpret liberation theology in the sense of a drive towards "inculturation" and participation in the country's modernization. Since 1985 the Guangqi Company has published its own Catholic Documentation which promotes post-conciliar thinking in the social domain as well as in liturgy, ecclesiology, biblical studies, Church history, etc." [p. 390]
Consequently, we are no longer surprised to see Cardinal Etchegaray giving preference to these "official Catholics", whilst affirming that there exists in China but "one and the same Church".
Ultimately, the prelate is "in connivance" with the Communist regime, to use an expression of Cardinal Decourtray's while feigning a belated "act of repentance". And therefore he treats the Church of China in the same way that the regime, in its fight against the mafias called "Triads", eliminates the "bad Triads", but tolerates and makes use of those which have proved their "patriotism". Certain networks take control of activities known as "subterranean", carried out on the margins of the official state-controlled economy. [Valeurs actuelles, 12 January 2001]
The picture of the situation in China is a gripping illustration of the proverb of the ancient Fathers according to whom "the gods of the pagans are demons". For the current campaign of purges carried out by the regime within its own administration hides a fierce struggle for power between demons all of whom have issued from hell: "Ultra-violence, corruption, espionage, secret wars, piracy, drugs: at the dawn of the twenty-first century, a "post-modem" criminality is shaking the Far East. The West is also threatened as such crimes spread across the globe." [Ibid.]
And it is to "serve" this world that Cardinal Etchegaray invites Chinese Catholics, in the name of the Pope and the Council! So, the only question that remains to be answered is whether "underground" and "official" Catholics practice the same religion within the Catholic Church.
"One single Church", yes, but within her womb two religions are locked in battle. Particularly since on the ground, in day-to-day practice, the distinction between "official" and "underground" Catholics is tending to become more and more blurred. Many bishops appointed by the government are secretly asking to be legitimized by Rome. But the fact is that this secret legitimization is a criminal act, because it tends to reinforce what is in everyone's eyes, publicly and "officially", schismatic! This is a scandal in the strongest sense of the word: a stumbling block, capable of toppling the faithful into the heresy of the "cult of man", or the "service of man," as Cardinal Etchegaray so aptly put it. Two religions have been fighting in the bosom of the one self same Church, not only in China, but throughout the whole world: the "official" conciliar religion may be summed up in the cult of man who makes himself God. And the religion of Fatima is summed up in the cult of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our salvation.
Based on the article in The Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 21st Century, January 2001.
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