A Chinese bishop who is vice-president of the officially approved Chinese Patriotic Association has said that no one in China wants a Church separated from the Pope.
Interviewed in September by Vatican Insider, run by the Italian newspaper 'La Stampa', Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen said, “we are like branches attached to the vine and we need the pastoral guidance of the Pontiff”. He added: “None of us has ever thought about separating or distinguishing ourselves from the universal Church, or to walk on different paths from the one on which the universal Church is walking”.
Speaking during a visit to Germany, the bishop reported that many things have changed in the Chinese context. “Twenty years ago, we could not publicly pray for the Pope; we could not speak about the communion with the Pope in any text, in any situation … But now it’s all changed; we now pray for Pope Francis in every Mass”. He conveyed that the Pope’s words, such as homilies at the weekly papal audiences, are shared daily on social media.
Bishop Shen, 47, whose episcopal ordination took place in 2000, was ordained in full communion with the Holy See and is also recognised by the government. He is also a member of the Council of Chinese Bishops, which is not recognised by the Holy See. He said he considers the potential reconciliation between “official” or Patriotic Chinese Catholic communities and so-called “clandestine” or underground communities the most important fruit that can be expected from the ongoing dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Holy See. He described the “underground” Catholics as “brothers in the one Church; there are problems and wounds, but there is no break in the fraternity”.
Bishop Shen recalled Jesus’ invitation to be “as smart as snakes and as simple as doves”, referring to the tensions that Chinese bishops are obliged to negotiate. “I believe that now, in China, dialogue and reconciliation are the most important things,” he said, expressing the hope that “the Vatican remembers that there is a great country in the East, it is like a ‘great sheep’ of the flock, which cannot be neglected or abandoned”.