OF THE HOLY FATHER
POPE BENEDICT XVI
TO THE BISHOPS, PRIESTS,
AND LAY FAITHFUL
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the
faithful of the Catholic Church in China: "We always thank God, the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have
heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for
all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven ... We
have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the
knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead
a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every
good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be
strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all
endurance and patience with joy" (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).
These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing
the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of
the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in
my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of
communion that unites us spiritually.
Purpose of the Letter
2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my
fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to
Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have
manifested "sometimes at the price of grave sufferings", since "it
has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only
believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless,
some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause
Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well
known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines
concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in
China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus
Christ, "the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human
history"  wants from you.
THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH
Globalization, modernity and atheism
3. As I turn my attention towards your People, which has distinguished
itself among the other peoples of Asia for the splendour of its ancient
civilization, with all its experience of wisdom, philosophy, art and
science, I am pleased to note how, especially in recent times, it has
also moved decisively towards achieving significant goals of
socio-economic progress, attracting the interest of the entire world.
As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II once said, "The Catholic
Church for her part regards with respect this impressive thrust and
far-sighted planning, and with discretion offers her own contribution in
the promotion and defence of the human person, and of the person's
values, spirituality and transcendent vocation. The Church has very much
at heart the values and objectives which are of primary importance also
to modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the wise management
of the phenomenon of globalization" .
The pressure to attain the desired and necessary economic and social
development and the search for modernity are accompanied by two
different and contrasting phenomena, both of which should nonetheless be
evaluated with equal prudence and a positive apostolic spirit. On the
one hand, especially among the young, one can detect a growing interest
in the spiritual and transcendent dimension of the human person, with a
consequent interest in religion, particularly in Christianity. On the
other hand, there are signs, in China too, of the tendency towards
materialism and hedonism, which are spreading from the big cities to the
entire country .
In this context, in which you are called to live and work, I want to
remind you of what Pope John Paul II emphasized so strongly and
vigorously: the new evangelization demands the proclamation of the
Gospel  to modern man, with a keen awareness that, just as during the
first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during
the second in the American continent and in Africa, so during the third
millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and
vibrant Asian continent .
"'Duc in altum' (Lk 5:4). These words ring out for us today, and they
invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with
enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: 'Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb 13:8)" . In
China too the Church is called to be a witness of Christ, to look
forward with hope, and
in proclaiming the Gospel
to measure up to the new challenges that the Chinese People must face.
The word of God helps us, once again, to discover the mysterious and
profound meaning of the Church's path in the world. In fact "the subject
of one of the most important visions of the Book of Revelation is [the]
Lamb in the act of opening a scroll, previously closed with seven seals
that no one had been able to break open. John is even shown in tears,
for he finds no one worthy of opening the scroll or reading it (cf. Rev
5:4). History remains indecipherable, incomprehensible. No one can read
it. Perhaps John's weeping before the mystery of a history so obscure
expresses the Asian Churches' dismay at God's silence in the face of the
persecutions to which they were exposed at the time. It is a dismay that
can clearly mirror our consternation in the face of the serious
difficulties, misunderstandings and hostility that the Church also
suffers today in various parts of the world. These are trials that the
Church does not of course deserve, just as Jesus himself did not deserve
his torture. However, they reveal both the wickedness of man, when he
abandons himself to the promptings of evil, and also the superior
ordering of events on God's part" .
Today, as in the past, to proclaim the Gospel means to preach and bear
witness to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the new Man, conqueror of
sin and death. He enables human beings to enter into a new dimension,
where mercy and love shown even to enemies can bear witness to the
victory of the Cross over all weakness and human wretchedness. In your
country too, the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen will be
possible to the extent that, with fidelity to the Gospel, in communion
with the Successor of the Apostle Peter and with the universal Church,
you are able to put into practice the signs of love and unity ("even as
I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will
know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another ...
even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one
in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me"
Jn 13:34-35; 17:21).
Willingness to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue
4. As universal Pastor of the Church, I wish to manifest sincere
gratitude to the Lord for the deeply-felt witness of faithfulness
offered by the Chinese Catholic community in truly difficult
circumstances. At the same time, I sense the urgent need, as my deep and
compelling duty and as an expression of my paternal love, to confirm the
faith of Chinese Catholics and favour their unity with the means proper
to the Church.
I am also following with particular interest the events of the entire
Chinese People, whom I regard with sincere admiration and sentiments of
friendship, to the point where I express the hope "that concrete forms
of communication and cooperation between the Holy See and the People's
Republic of China may soon be established. Friendship is nourished by
contacts, by a sharing in the joy and sadness of different situations,
by solidarity and mutual assistance" . And pursuing this line of
argument, my venerable predecessor added: "It is no secret that the Holy
See, in the name of the whole Catholic Church and, I believe, for the
benefit of the whole human family, hopes for the opening of some form of
dialogue with the authorities of the People's Republic of China. Once
the misunderstandings of the past have been overcome, such a dialogue
would make it possible for us to work together for the good of the
Chinese People and for peace in the world" .
I realize that the normalization of relations with the People's Republic
of China requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties.
For its part, the Holy See always remains open to negotiations, so
necessary if the difficulties of the present time are to be overcome.
This situation of misunderstandings and incomprehension weighs heavily,
serving the interests of neither the Chinese authorities nor the
Catholic Church in China. As Pope John Paul II stated, recalling what
Father Matteo Ricci wrote from Beijing , "so too today the Catholic
Church seeks no privilege from China and its leaders, but solely the
resumption of dialogue, in order to build a relationship based upon
mutual respect and deeper understanding" . Let China rest assured
that the Catholic Church sincerely proposes to offer, once again, humble
and disinterested service in the areas of her competence, for the good
of Chinese Catholics and for the good of all the inhabitants of the
As far as relations between the political community and the Church in
China are concerned, it is worth calling to mind the enlightening
teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which states: "The Church, by
reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political
community nor is she tied to any political system. She is at once the
sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human
person". And the Council continues: "The political community and the
Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields.
They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the
same individuals, though under different titles. Their service will be
more efficient and beneficial to all if both institutions develop better
cooperation according to the circumstances of place and time" .
Likewise, therefore, the Catholic Church which is in China does not have
a mission to change the structure or administration of the State;
rather, her mission is to proclaim Christ to men and women, as the
Saviour of the world, basing herself
in carrying out her proper apostolate
on the power of God. As I recalled in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est,
"The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle
to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not
replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain
on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part
through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy
without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail
and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of
the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about
openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something
which concerns the Church deeply" .
In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to
existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the
legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with
those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in
matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church. The civil
authorities are well aware that the Church in her teaching invites the
faithful to be good citizens, respectful and active contributors to the
common good in their country, but it is likewise clear that she asks the
State to guarantee to those same Catholic citizens the full exercise of
their faith, with respect for authentic religious freedom.
Communion between particular Churches in the universal Church
5. Beloved Catholic Church in China, you are a small flock present and
active within the vastness of an immense People journeying through
history. How stirring and encouraging these words of Jesus are for you:
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give
you the kingdom" (Lk 12:32)! "You are the salt of the earth ... you are
the light of the world": therefore "let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is
in heaven" (Mt 5:13, 14, 16).
In the Catholic Church which is in China, the universal Church is
present, the Church of Christ, which in the Creed we acknowledge to be
one, holy, catholic and apostolic, that is to say, the universal
community of the Lord's disciples.
As you know, the profound unity which binds together the particular
Churches found in China, and which likewise places them in intimate
communion with all the other particular Churches throughout the world,
has its roots not only in the same faith and in a common Baptism, but
above all in the Eucharist and in the episcopate . Likewise, the
unity of the episcopate, of which "the Roman Pontiff, as the Successor
of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation" ,
continues down the centuries through the apostolic succession and is the
foundation of the identity of the Church in every age with the Church
built by Christ on Peter and on the other Apostles .
Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop is the visible source and
foundation of unity in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral
ministry . But in every particular Church, in order that she may be
fully Church, there must be present the supreme authority of the Church,
that is to say, the episcopal College together with its Head, the Roman
Pontiff, and never apart from him. Therefore the ministry of the
Successor of Peter belongs to the essence of every particular Church
"from within" . Moreover, the communion of all the particular
Churches in the one Catholic Church, and hence the ordered hierarchical
communion of all the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, with the
Successor of Peter, are a guarantee of the unity of the faith and life
of all Catholics. It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the
Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion
with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete
communion with the Pope.
No one in the Church is a foreigner, but all are citizens of the same
People, members of the same Mystical Body of Christ. The bond of
sacramental communion is the Eucharist, guaranteed by the ministry of
Bishops and priests .
The whole of the Church which is in China is called to live and to
manifest this unity in a richer spirituality of communion, so that,
taking account of the complex concrete situations in which the Catholic
community finds itself, she may also grow in a harmonious hierarchical
communion. Therefore, Pastors and faithful are called to defend and to
safeguard what belongs to the doctrine and the tradition of the Church.
Tensions and divisions within the Church: pardon and reconciliation
6. Addressing the whole Church in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio
Ineunte, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, stated that an
"important area in which there has to be commitment and planning on the
part of the universal Church and the particular Churches [is] the domain
of communion (koinonia), which embodies and reveals the very essence of
the mystery of the Church. Communion is the fruit and demonstration of
that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is
poured out upon us through the Spirit whom Jesus gives us (cf. Rom 5:5),
to make us all 'one heart and one soul' (Acts 4:32). It is in building
this communion of love that the Church appears as 'sacrament', as the
'sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the
human race.' The Lord's words on this point are too precise for us to
diminish their import. Many things are necessary for the Church's
journey through history, not least in this new century; but without
charity (agape) all will be in vain. It is again the Apostle Paul who in
his hymn to love reminds us: even if we speak the tongues of men and of
angels, and if we have faith 'to move mountains', but are without love,
all will come to 'nothing' (cf. 1 Cor 13:2). Love is truly the 'heart'
of the Church" .
These matters, which concern the very nature of the universal Church,
have a particular significance for the Church which is in China. Indeed
you are aware of the problems that she is seeking to overcome
within herself and in her relations with Chinese civil society
tensions, divisions and recriminations.
In this regard, last year, while speaking of the nascent Church, I had
occasion to recall that "from the start the community of the disciples
has known not only the joy of the Holy Spirit, the grace of truth and
love, but also trials that are constituted above all by disagreements
about the truths of faith, with the consequent wounds to communion. Just
as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will continue
to the end (cf. 1 Jn 1:1ff.), so also, from the start, division
unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists
today ... Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of
the Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and
brotherhood. Consequently it is a specific duty of those who believe in
the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger too"
The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic communion is
not expressed without arduous efforts at reconciliation . Indeed,
the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrong-doers, the forgetting
of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of
troubled hearts, all to be accomplished in the name of Jesus crucified
and risen, can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints,
born of painful or difficult experiences. These are urgent steps that
must be taken if the bonds of communion between the faithful and the
Pastors of the Church in China are to grow and be made visible.
For this reason, my venerable predecessor on several occasions addressed
to you an urgent invitation to pardon and reconciliation. In this
regard, I am pleased to recall a passage from the message that he sent
you at the approach of the Holy Year 2000: "In your preparation for the
Great Jubilee, remember that in the biblical tradition this moment
always entailed the obligation to forgive one another's debts, to make
satisfaction for injustices committed, and to be reconciled with one's
neighbour. You too have heard the proclamation of the 'great joy
prepared for all peoples': the love and mercy of the Father, the
Redemption accomplished in Christ. To the extent that you yourselves are
ready to accept this joyful proclamation, you will be able to pass it
on, by your lives, to the men and women around you. My ardent desire is
that you will respond to the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit by
forgiving one another whatever needs to be forgiven, by drawing closer
to one another, by accepting one another and by breaking down all
barriers in order to overcome every possible cause of division. Do not
forget the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: 'By this all will know
that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35).
I rejoiced when I learned that you intend your most precious gift on the
occasion of the Great Jubilee to be unity among yourselves and unity
with the Successor of Peter. This intention can only be a fruit of the
Spirit who guides the Church along the arduous paths of reconciliation
and unity" .
We all realize that this journey cannot be accomplished overnight, but
be assured that the whole Church will raise up an insistent prayer for
you to this end.
Keep in mind, moreover, that your path of reconciliation is supported by
the example and the prayer of so many "witnesses of the faith" who have
suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the
Catholic Church in China. Their very existence represents a permanent
blessing for you in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and their
memory will not fail to produce abundant fruit.
Ecclesial communities and State agencies: relationships to be lived
in truth and charity.
7. A careful analysis of the aforementioned painful situation of serious
differences (cf. section 6 above), involving the lay faithful and their
Pastors, highlights among the various causes the significant part played
by entities that have been imposed as the principal determinants of the
life of the Catholic community. Still today, in fact, recognition from
these entities is the criterion for declaring a community, a person or a
religious place legal and therefore "official". All this has caused
division both among the clergy and among the lay faithful. It is a
situation primarily dependent on factors external to the Church, but it
has seriously conditioned her progress, giving rise also to suspicions,
mutual accusations and recriminations, and it continues to be a weakness
in the Church that causes concern.
Regarding the delicate issue of the relations to be maintained with the
agencies of the State, particular enlightenment can be found in the
invitation of the Second Vatican Council to follow the words and modus
operandi of Jesus Christ. He, indeed, "did not wish to be a political
Messiah who would dominate by force  but preferred to call himself
the Son of Man who came to serve, and 'to give his life as a ransom for
many' (Mk 10:45). He showed himself as the perfect Servant of God 
who 'will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick' (Mt
12:20). He recognized civil authority and its rights when he ordered
tribute to be paid to Caesar, but he gave clear warning that the greater
rights of God must be respected: 'Render therefore to Caesar the things
that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21).
Finally, he brought his revelation to perfection when he accomplished on
the Cross the work of redemption by which he achieved salvation and true
freedom for the human race. For he bore witness to the truth  but
refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke out against it. His
Kingdom does not establish its claims by force , but is established
by bearing witness to and listening to the truth and it grows by the
love with which Christ, lifted up on the Cross, draws people to himself
(cf. Jn 12:32)" .
Truth and charity are the two supporting pillars of the life of the
Christian community. For this reason, I have observed that "the Church
of love is also the Church of truth, understood primarily as fidelity to
the Gospel entrusted by the Lord Jesus to his followers ... However, if
the family of God's children is to live in unity and peace, it needs
someone to keep it in the truth and guide it with wise and authoritative
discernment: this is what the ministry of the Apostles is required to
do. And here we come to an important point. The Church is wholly of the
Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is
responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given
by Christ, from whom the capacity to love also comes ... The Apostles
and their successors are therefore the custodians and authoritative
witnesses of the deposit of truth consigned to the Church, and are
likewise the ministers of charity. These are two aspects that go
together ... Truth and love are the two faces of the same gift that
comes from God and, thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded in
the Church and handed down to us, to our present time!" .
Therefore the Second Vatican Council underlines that "those also have a
claim on our respect and charity who think and act differently from us
in social, political, and religious matters. In fact, the more deeply,
through courtesy and love, we come to understand their ways of thinking,
the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them". But,
as the same Council admonishes us, "love and courtesy of this kind
should not, of course, make us indifferent to truth and goodness" .
Considering "Jesus' original plan" , it is clear that the claim of
some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of
the Church, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life
of the ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine,
according to which the Church is "apostolic", as the Second Vatican
Council underlined. The Church is apostolic "in her origin because she
has been built on 'the foundation of the Apostles' (Eph 2:20). She is
apostolic in her teaching which is the same as that of the Apostles. She
is apostolic by reason of her structure insofar as she is taught,
sanctified, and guided until Christ returns by the Apostles through
their successors who are the Bishops in communion with the Successor of
Peter" . Therefore, in every individual particular Church, "it is in
the name of the Lord that the diocesan Bishop [and only he] leads the
flock entrusted to him, and he does so as the proper, ordinary and
immediate Pastor" ; at a national level, moreover, only a legitimate
Episcopal Conference can formulate pastoral guidelines, valid for the
entire Catholic community of the country concerned .
Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to
implement "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management
and democratic administration of the Church"  is incompatible with
Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes
the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic".
In the light of the principles here outlined, Pastors and lay faithful
will recall that the preaching of the Gospel, catechesis and charitable
activity, liturgical and cultic action, as well as all pastoral choices,
are uniquely the competence of the Bishops together with their priests
in the unbroken continuity of the faith handed down by the Apostles in
the Sacred Scriptures and in Tradition, and therefore they cannot be
subject to any external interference.
Given this difficult situation, not a few members of the Catholic
community are asking whether recognition from the civil authorities
necessary in order to function publicly
somehow compromises communion with the universal Church. I am fully
aware that this problem causes painful disquiet in the hearts of Pastors
and faithful. In this regard I maintain, in the first place, that the
requisite and courageous safeguarding of the deposit of faith and of
sacramental and hierarchical communion is not of itself opposed to
dialogue with the authorities concerning those aspects of the life of
the ecclesial community that fall within the civil sphere. There would
not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition
granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the
denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical
communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed almost
always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies
obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and
undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their
conscience as Catholics. I understand, therefore, how in such varied
conditions and circumstances it is difficult to determine the correct
choice to be made. For this reason the Holy See, after restating the
principles, leaves the decision to the individual Bishop who, having
consulted his presbyterate, is better able to know the local situation,
to weigh the concrete possibilities of choice and to evaluate the
possible consequences within the diocesan community. It could be that
the final decision does not obtain the consensus of all the priests and
faithful. I express the hope, however, that it will be accepted, albeit
with suffering, and that the unity of the diocesan community with its
own Pastor will be maintained.
It would be good, finally, if Bishops and priests, with truly pastoral
hearts, were to take every possible step to avoid giving rise to
situations of scandal, seizing opportunities to form the consciences of
the faithful, with particular attention to the weakest: all this should
be lived out in communion and in fraternal understanding, avoiding
judgements and mutual condemnations. In this case too, it must be kept
in mind, especially where there is little room for freedom, that in
order to evaluate the morality of an act it is necessary to devote
particular care to establishing the real intentions of the person
concerned, in addition to the objective shortcoming. Every case, then,
will have to be pondered individually, taking account of the
The Chinese Episcopate
8. In the Church
the People of God
only the sacred ministers, duly ordained after sufficient instruction
and formation, may exercise the office of "teaching, sanctifying and
governing". The lay faithful may, with a canonical mission from the
Bishop, perform an ancillary ecclesial ministry of handing on the faith.
In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops, have
encountered difficulties, since persons who are not "ordained", and
sometimes not even baptized, control and take decisions concerning
important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops, in
the name of various State agencies. Consequently, we have witnessed a
demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries by virtue of a vision
of the Church according to which the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and
the priests risk becoming de facto persons without office and without
power. Yet in fact, as stated earlier, the Petrine and episcopal
ministries are essential and integral elements of Catholic doctrine on
the sacramental structure of the Church. The nature of the Church is a
gift of the Lord Jesus, because "his gifts were that some should be
apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to
equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of
Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the
stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:11-13).
Communion and unity
let me repeat (cf. section 5 above)
are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore
the proposal for a Church that is "independent" of the Holy See, in the
religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.
I am aware of the grave difficulties which you have to address in the
aforementioned situation in order to remain faithful to Christ, to his
Church and to the Successor of Peter. Reminding you that
as Saint Paul said (cf. Rom 8:35-39)
no difficulty can separate us from the love of Christ, I am confident
that you will do everything possible, trusting in the Lord's grace, to
safeguard unity and ecclesial communion even at the cost of great
Many members of the Chinese episcopate who have guided the Church in
recent decades have offered and continue to offer a shining testimony to
their own communities and to the universal Church. Once again, let a
heartfelt hymn of praise and thanksgiving be sung to the "chief
Shepherd" of the flock (1 Pet 5:4): in fact, it must not be forgotten
that many Bishops have undergone persecution and have been impeded in
the exercise of their ministry, and some of them have made the Church
fruitful with the shedding of their blood. Modern times and the
consequent challenge of the new evangelization highlight the role of the
episcopal ministry. As John Paul II said to the Pastors from every part
of the world who gathered in Rome for the celebration of the Jubilee,
"the Pastor is the first to take responsibility for and to encourage the
ecclesial community, both in the requirement of communion and in the
missionary outreach. Regarding the relativism and subjectivism which mar
so much of contemporary culture, Bishops are called to defend and
promote the doctrinal unity of their faithful. Concerned for every
situation in which the faith has been lost or is unknown, they work with
all their strength for evangelization, preparing priests, religious and
lay people for this task and making the necessary resources available"
On the same occasion, my venerable predecessor recalled that "the
Bishop, a successor of the Apostles, is someone for whom Christ is
everything: 'For to me to live is Christ ...' (Phil 1:21). He must bear
witness to this in all his actions. The Second Vatican Council teaches:
'Bishops should devote themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses
of Christ to all' (Decree Christus Dominus, 11)" .
Concerning episcopal service, then, I take the opportunity to recall
something I said recently: "The Bishops are primarily responsible for
building up the Church as a family of God and a place of mutual help and
availability. To be able to carry out this mission, you received with
episcopal consecration three special offices: the munus docendi, the
munus sanctificandi and the munus regendi, which all together constitute
the munus pascendi. In particular, the aim of the munus regendi is
growth in ecclesial communion, that is, in building a community in
agreement and listening to the Apostles' teaching, the breaking of
bread, prayer and fellowship. Closely linked to the offices of teaching
and of sanctifying, that of governing
the munus regendi precisely
constitutes for the Bishop an authentic act of love for God and for
one's neighbour, which is expressed in pastoral charity" .
As in the rest of the world, in China too the Church is governed by
Bishops who, through episcopal ordination conferred upon them by other
validly ordained Bishops, have received, together with the sanctifying
office, the offices of teaching and governing the people entrusted to
them in their respective particular Churches, with a power that is
conferred by God through the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The
offices of teaching and governing "however, by their very nature can be
exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of
the college" of Bishops . In fact, as the Council went on to say, "a
person is made a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the
sacramental consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head and
members of the college" .
Currently, all the Bishops of the Catholic Church in China are sons of
the Chinese People. Notwithstanding many grave difficulties, the
Catholic Church in China, by a particular grace of the Holy Spirit, has
never been deprived of the ministry of legitimate Pastors who have
preserved the apostolic succession intact. We must thank the Lord for
this constant presence, not without suffering, of Bishops who have
received episcopal ordination in conformity with Catholic tradition,
that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of
Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained Bishops in
observance of the rite of the Catholic Church.
Some of them, not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised
over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the
Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves
constrained to opt for clandestine consecration. The clandestine
condition is not a normal feature of the Church's life, and history
shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering,
in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist
interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the
Church's life. For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate
Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil
insofar as these are necessary
and that all the faithful may be able to express their faith freely in
the social context in which they live.
Other Pastors, however, under the pressure of particular circumstances,
have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical
mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with
the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate.
The Pope, considering the sincerity of their sentiments and the
complexity of the situation, and taking into account the opinion of
neighbouring Bishops, by virtue of his proper responsibility as
universal Pastor of the Church, has granted them the full and legitimate
exercise of episcopal jurisdiction. This initiative of the Pope resulted
from knowledge of the particular circumstances of their ordination and
from his profound pastoral concern to favour the reestablishment of full
communion. Unfortunately, in most cases, priests and the faithful have
not been adequately informed that their Bishop has been legitimized, and
this has given rise to a number of grave problems of conscience. What is
more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to
prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is
indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities
concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the
public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized
Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with
the Successor of Peter.
Finally, there are certain Bishops
very small number of them
who have been ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not
asked for or have not yet obtained, the necessary legitimation.
According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be
considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain
that they have received ordination from validly ordained Bishops and
that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected.
Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise their
ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they
do so illegitimately. What great spiritual enrichment would ensue for
the Church in China if, the necessary conditions having been
established, these Pastors too were to enter into communion with the
Successor of Peter and with the entire Catholic episcopate! Not only
would their episcopal ministry be legitimized, there would also be an
enrichment of their communion with the priests and the faithful who
consider the Church in China part of the Catholic Church, united with
the Bishop of Rome and with all the other particular Churches spread
throughout the world.
In individual nations, all the legitimate Bishops constitute an
Episcopal Conference, governed according to its own statutes, which by
the norms of canon law must be approved by the Apostolic See. Such an
Episcopal Conference expresses the fraternal communion of all the
Bishops of a nation and treats the doctrinal and pastoral questions that
are significant for the entire Catholic community of the country
without, however, interfering in the exercise of the ordinary and
immediate power of each Bishop in his own diocese. Moreover, every
Episcopal Conference maintains opportune and useful contacts with the
civil authorities of the place, partly in order to favour cooperation
between the Church and the State, but it is obvious that an Episcopal
Conference cannot be subjected to any civil authority in questions of
faith and of living according to the faith (fides et mores, sacramental
life), which are exclusively the competence of the Church.
In the light of the principles expounded above, the present College of
Catholic Bishops of China  cannot be recognized as an Episcopal
Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine" Bishops, those not
recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not
part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is
governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic
Appointment of Bishops
9. As all of you know, one of the most delicate problems in relations
between the Holy See and the authorities of your country is the question
of episcopal appointments. On the one hand, it is understandable that
governmental authorities are attentive to the choice of those who will
carry out the important role of leading and shepherding the local
Catholic communities, given the social implications which
in China as in the rest of the world
this function has in the civil sphere as well as the spiritual. On the
other hand, the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special
care since this touches the very heart of the life of the Church,
inasmuch as the appointment of Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of
the unity of the Church and of hierarchical communion. For this reason
the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 1382) lays down grave sanctions both for
the Bishop who freely confers episcopal ordination without an apostolic
mandate and for the one who receives it: such an ordination in fact
inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and constitutes a
grave violation of canonical discipline.
The Pope, when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a
Bishop, exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and
this intervention remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is
not, therefore, a question of a political authority, unduly asserting
itself in the internal affairs of a State and offending against its
The appointment of Bishops for a particular religious community is
understood, also in international documents, as a constitutive element
of the full exercise of the right to religious freedom . The Holy
See would desire to be completely free to appoint Bishops ;
therefore, considering the recent particular developments of the Church
in China, I trust that an accord can be reached with the Government so
as to resolve certain questions regarding the choice of candidates for
the episcopate, the publication of the appointment of Bishops, and the
concerning civil effects where necessary
of the new Bishops on the part of the civil authorities.
Finally, as to the choice of candidates for the episcopate, while
knowing your difficulties in this regard, I would like to remind you
that they should be worthy priests, respected and loved by the faithful,
models of life in the faith, and that they should possess a certain
experience in the pastoral ministry, so that they are equipped to
address the burdensome responsibility of a Pastor of the Church .
Whenever it proves impossible within a diocese to find suitable
candidates to occupy the episcopal see, the cooperation of Bishops in
neighbouring dioceses can help to identify suitable candidates.
GUIDELINES FOR PASTORAL LIFE
Sacraments, governance of dioceses, parishes
10. In recent times difficulties have emerged, linked to individual
initiatives taken by Pastors, priests and lay faithful, who, moved by
generous pastoral zeal, have not always respected the tasks or
responsibilities of others.
In this regard, the Second Vatican Council reminds us that, if on the
one hand individual Bishops "as members of the episcopal college and
legitimate successors of the Apostles, by Christ's arrangement and
decree [are] bound to be solicitous for the entire Church", on the other
hand they "exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People
of God assigned to them, not over other Churches nor over the Church
Moreover, faced with certain problems that have emerged in various
diocesan communities during recent years, I feel it incumbent upon me to
recall the canonical norm according to which every cleric must be
incardinated in a particular Church or in an Institute of consecrated
life and must exercise his own ministry in communion with the diocesan
Bishop. Only for good reasons may a cleric exercise his ministry in
another diocese, but always with the prior agreement of the two diocesan
Bishops, that is, the Ordinary of the particular Church in which he is
incardinated and the Ordinary of the particular Church for whose service
he is destined .
In not a few situations, then, you have faced the problem of
concelebration of the Eucharist. In this regard, I remind you that this
presupposes, as conditions, profession of the same faith and
hierarchical communion with the Pope and with the universal Church.
Therefore it is licit to concelebrate with Bishops and with priests who
are in communion with the Pope, even if they are recognized by the civil
authorities and maintain a relationship with entities desired by the
State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, provided
as was said earlier (cf. section 7 above, paragraph 8)
that this recognition and this relationship do not entail the denial of
unrenounceable principles of the faith and of ecclesiastical communion.
The lay faithful too, who are animated by a sincere love for Christ and
for the Church, must not hesitate to participate in the Eucharist
celebrated by Bishops and by priests who are in full communion with the
Successor of Peter and are recognized by the civil authorities. The same
applies for all the other sacraments.
Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical
mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the
resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the
principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination
as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12)
is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by
them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests
are likewise valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account,
where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are
concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and
priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this
cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake
of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion
with the Pope.
I consider it opportune, finally, to point out to you what canonical
legislation provides in order to help diocesan Bishops to carry out
their respective pastoral duty. Every diocesan Bishop is invited to make
use of indispensable instruments of communion and cooperation within the
diocesan Catholic community: the diocesan curia, the presbyteral
council, the college of consultors, the diocesan pastoral council and
the diocesan finance council. These agencies express communion, they
favour the sharing of common responsibilities and are of great
assistance to the Pastors, who can thus avail themselves of the
fraternal cooperation of priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful.
The same is true of the various councils that canon law provides for
parishes: the parish pastoral council and the parish finance council.
Both for dioceses and for parishes, particular attention must be devoted
to the Church's temporal goods, moveable and immoveable, which must be
legally registered in the civil sphere in the name of the diocese or
parish and never in the name of individual persons (that is, the Bishop,
parish priest or a group of the faithful). Meanwhile, the traditional
pastoral and missionary guideline that can be neatly summarized in the
principle: "nihil sine Episcopo"; retains all its validity.
From the analysis of the problems outlined above, it emerges clearly
that any real solution will be rooted in the promotion of communion,
which draws its vigour and impetus, as from a source, from Christ, the
icon of the Father's love. Charity, which is always above everything
(cf. 1 Cor 13:1-12), will be the force and the criterion in pastoral
work for the construction of an ecclesial community capable of making
the Risen Christ present to modern man.
11. Numerous administrative changes have taken place in the civil sphere
during the last fifty years. This has also involved various
ecclesiastical circumscriptions, which have been eliminated or regrouped
or have been modified in their territorial configuration on the basis of
the civil administrative circumscriptions. In this regard, I wish to
confirm that the Holy See is prepared to address the entire question of
the circumscriptions and ecclesiastical provinces in an open and
constructive dialogue with the Chinese Episcopate and
where opportune and helpful
with governmental authorities.
12. I am well aware that the diocesan and parochial communities, spread
over the vast Chinese territory, demonstrate a particular liveliness of
Christian life, witness of faith and pastoral initiative. It is
consoling for me to note that, despite past and present difficulties,
the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful have
maintained a profound awareness of being living members of the universal
Church, in communion of faith and life with all the Catholic communities
throughout the world. They know in their hearts what it means to be
Catholic. And it is precisely from this Catholic heart that the
commitment must likewise issue forth to make manifest and effective,
both within individual communities and in relations between different
communities, that spirit of communion, understanding and forgiveness
as was said earlier (cf. section 5 above, paragraph 4, and section 6)
is the visible seal of an authentic Christian life. I am sure that the
Spirit of Christ, just as he helped the communities to keep the faith
alive in time of persecution, will today help all Catholics to grow in
As I have already observed (cf. section 2 above, paragraph 1, and
section 4, paragraph 1), members of Catholic communities in your country
especially Bishops, priests and consecrated persons
are unfortunately not yet allowed to live and to express fully and
visibly certain aspects of their belonging to the Church and their
hierarchical communion with the Pope, since free contact with the Holy
See and with other Catholic communities in various countries is
ordinarily impeded. It is true that in recent years the Church has
enjoyed greater religious freedom than in the past. Nevertheless it
cannot be denied that grave limitations remain that touch the heart of
the faith and that, to a certain degree, suffocate pastoral activity. In
this regard I renew my earnest wish (cf. section 4 above, paragraphs 2,
3, 4) that in the course of a respectful and open dialogue between the
Holy See and the Chinese Bishops on the one hand, and the governmental
authorities on the other, the difficulties mentioned may be overcome and
thus a fruitful understanding may be reached that will prove beneficial
to the Catholic community and to social cohesion.
13. I would now like to address a special reflection and an invitation
especially those ordained in recent years
who have undertaken the path of the pastoral ministry with such
generosity. It seems to me that the current ecclesial and
socio-political situation renders ever more urgent the need to draw
light and strength from the well-springs of priestly spirituality, which
are God's love, the unconditional following of Christ, passion for
proclamation of the Gospel, faithfulness to the Church and generous
service of neighbour . How can I fail to recall, in this regard, as
an encouragement for all, the shining examples of Bishops and priests
who, in the difficult years of the recent past, have testified to an
unfailing love for the Church, even by the gift of their own lives for
her and for Christ?
My dear priests! You who bear "the burden of the day and the scorching
heat" (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not look
back (cf. Lk 9:62): think of those places where the faithful are waiting
anxiously for a priest and where for many years, feeling the lack of a
priest, they have not ceased to pray for one to arrive. I know that
among you there are confrθres who have had to deal with difficult times
and situations, adopting positions that cannot always be condoned from
an ecclesial point of view and who, despite everything, want to return
to full communion with the Church. In the spirit of that profound
reconciliation to which my venerable predecessor repeatedly invited the
Church in China , I turn now to the Bishops who are in communion
with the Successor of Peter, so that with a paternal spirit they may
evaluate these questions case by case and give a just response to that
desire, having recourse
to the Apostolic See. And, as a sign of this desired reconciliation, I
think that there is no gesture more significant than that of renewing as
on the occasion of the priestly day of Holy Thursday, as happens in the
universal Church, or on another occasion that might be considered more
the profession of faith, as a witness to the full communion
attained, for the edification of the Holy People of God entrusted to
your pastoral care, and to the praise of the Most Holy Trinity.
Furthermore, I realize that in China too, as in the rest of the Church,
the need for an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is emerging.
Hence the invitation, addressed to you Bishops as leaders of ecclesial
communities, to think especially of the young clergy who are
increasingly subject to new pastoral challenges, linked to the demands
of the task of evangelizing a society as complex as present-day Chinese
society. Pope John Paul II reminded us of this: ongoing formation of
priests "is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental
ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is
particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the
social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom
priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that 'new
evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the
Church at the end of the second millennium" .
Vocations and religious formation
14. During the last fifty years, the Church in China has never lacked an
abundant flowering of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated
life. For this we must thank the Lord, because it is a sign of vitality
and a reason for hope. Moreover, in the course of the years, many
indigenous religious congregations have emerged: Bishops and priests
know from experience what an indispensable contribution women religious
make to catechesis and to parish life in all its forms; moreover, care
for the most needy, offered in cooperation with the local civil
authorities, is an expression of that charity and service of neighbour
that are the most credible witness of the power and vitality of the
Gospel of Jesus.
I am aware, however, that this flowering is accompanied, today, by not a
few difficulties. The need therefore emerges both for more careful
vocational discernment on the part of Church leaders, and for more
in-depth education and instruction of aspirants to the priesthood and
religious life. Notwithstanding the precariousness of the means
available, for the future of the Church in China it will be necessary to
take steps to ensure, on the one hand, particular attention in the care
of vocations and, on the other hand, a more solid formation with regard
to the human, spiritual, philosophical-theological and pastoral aspects,
to be carried out in seminaries and religious institutes.
In this regard, the formation for celibacy of candidates for the
priesthood deserves particular mention. It is important that they learn
to live and to esteem celibacy as a precious gift from God and as an
eminently eschatological sign which bears witness to an undivided love
for God and for his people, and configures the priest to Jesus Christ,
Head and Bridegroom of the Church. This gift, in fact, in an outstanding
way "expresses the priest's service to the Church in and with the Lord"
 and has a prophetic value for today's world.
As for the religious vocation, in the present context of the Church in
China it is necessary that its two dimensions be seen ever more clearly:
namely, on the one hand, the witness of the charism of total
consecration to Christ through the vows of chastity, poverty and
obedience, and on the other hand, the response to the demand to proclaim
the Gospel in the socio- historical circumstances of the country today.
The Lay Faithful and the Family
15. In the most difficult periods of the recent history of the Catholic
Church in China, the lay faithful, both as individuals and families and
as members of spiritual and apostolic movements, have shown total
fidelity to the Gospel, even paying a personal price for their
faithfulness to Christ. My dear lay people, you are called, today too,
to incarnate the Gospel in your lives and to bear witness to it by means
of generous and effective service for the good of the people and for the
development of the country: and you will accomplish this mission by
living as honest citizens and by operating as active and responsible
co-workers in spreading the word of God to those around you, in the
country or in the city. You who in recent times have been courageous
witnesses of the faith, must remain the hope of the Church for the
future! This demands from you an ever more engaged participation in all
areas of Church life, in communion with your respective Pastors.
Since the future of humanity passes by way of the family, I consider it
indispensable and urgent that lay people should promote family values
and safeguard the needs of the family. Lay people, whose faith enables
them to know God's marvellous design for the family, have an added
reason to assume this concrete and demanding task: the family in fact
"is the normal place where the young grow to personal and social
maturity. It is also the bearer of the heritage of humanity itself,
because through the family, life is passed on from generation to
generation. The family occupies a very important place in Asian
cultures; and, as the Synod Fathers noted, family values like filial
respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, love of children and
harmony are held in high esteem in all Asian cultures and religious
The above-mentioned values form part of the relevant Chinese cultural
context, but also in your land there is no lack of forces that influence
the family negatively in various ways. Therefore the Church which is in
China, aware that the good of society and her own good are profoundly
linked to the good of the family , must have a keener and more
urgent sense of her mission to proclaim to all people God's plan for
marriage and the family, ensuring the full vitality of each .
Christian initiation of adults
16. The recent history of the Catholic Church in China has seen a large
number of adults coming to the faith, thanks partly to the witness of
the local Christian community. You, Pastors, are called to devote
particular care to their Christian initiation via an appropriate and
serious period of catechumenate aimed at helping them and preparing them
to lead the life of Jesus' disciples.
In this regard, I would mention that evangelization is never purely
intellectual communication, but rather includes experience of life,
purification and transformation of the whole of existence, and a journey
in communion. Only in this way is a proper relationship established
between thought and life.
Looking then to the past, it is unfortunately the case that many adults
have not always been sufficiently initiated into the complete truth of
Christian life and have not even known the richness of the renewal
brought by the Second Vatican Council. It therefore seems necessary and
urgent to offer them a solid and thorough Christian formation, in the
shape of a post-baptismal catechumenate .
The missionary vocation
17. The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim
and to bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense
in her heart the missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher.
Addressing young pilgrims on the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Holy
Year 2000, John Paul II said: "At the moment of his Ascension, Jesus
gave his disciples a mission and this reassurance: 'All power in heaven
and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of
all nations ... and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the
age' (Mt 28:18-20). For two-thousand years Christ's followers have
carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the third millennium, it
is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the
message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, he
speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for
the people of the twenty-first century no less than those of the first
century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and
goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into
Christ's Kingdom" .
Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous
apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most
Revocation of faculties and of pastoral directives
18. Considering in the first place some positive developments of the
situation of the Church in China, and in the second place the increased
opportunities and greater ease in communication, and finally the
requests sent to Rome by various Bishops and priests, I hereby revoke
all the faculties previously granted in order to address particular
pastoral necessities that emerged in truly difficult times.
Let the same be applied to all directives of a pastoral nature, past and
recent. The doctrinal principles that inspired them now find a new
application in the directives contained herein.
A day of prayer for the Church in China
19. Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the
future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be
united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is
dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians,
who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in
I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the
Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your
communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope,
and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more
visible. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us,
to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as
the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: "First of all, then, I urge
that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made
for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may
lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This
is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who
desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"
(1 Tim 2:1-4).
On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world
in particular those who are of Chinese origin
will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you,
asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in
the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of
Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded,
even if at times everything can seem a failure.
20. At the conclusion of this Letter I pray that you, dear Pastors of
the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and
lay faithful, may "rejoice, though now for a little while you may have
to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more
precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may
redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus
Christ" (1 Pet 1:6-7).
May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of China, who at the
hour of the Cross patiently awaited the morning of the Resurrection in
the silence of hope, accompany you with maternal solicitude and
intercede for all of you, together with Saint Joseph and the countless
Holy Martyrs of China.
I assure you of my constant prayers and, with affectionate remembrance
of the elderly, the sick, the children and young people of your noble
Nation, I bless you from my heart.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 27 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost,
in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
 Benedict XVI, Angelus of 26 December 2006: "With special spiritual
closeness, I also think of those Catholics who maintain their fidelity
to the See of Peter without ceding to compromises, sometimes at the
price of grave sufferings. The whole Church admires their example and
prays that they will have the strength to persevere, knowing that their
tribulations are the fount of victory, even if at that moment they can
seem a failure". L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007,
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 10.
 Message to the participants of the International Convention "Matteo
Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West" (24 October 2001), 4:
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.
 Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in
Asia (6 November 1999), 7: AAS 92 (2000), 456.
 Cf. ibid., 19, 20: AAS 92 (2000), 477-482.
 Cf. Address to members of the Federation of Asian Bishops'
Conferences (Manila, 15 January 1995), 11: L'Osservatore Romano, English
edition, 25 January 1995, p. 6.
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January
2001), 1: AAS 93 (2001), 266.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 23 August 2006),
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 30 August 2006, p. 3.
 John Paul II, Message to the participants of the International
Convention "Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West" (24
October 2001), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October
2001, pp. 3-4.
 Cf. Fonti Ricciane, ed. Pasquale M. D'Elia, S.J., vol. 2, Rome
1949, no. 617, p. 152.
 Message to the participants of the International Convention "Matteo
Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West" (24 October 2001), 4:
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.
 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et
 Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 28: AAS 98
(2006), 240. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 76.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen Gentium, 26.
 Ibid., 23.
 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the
Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood
as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11-14: AAS 85 (1993),
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops
of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as
Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 13: AAS 85 (1993), 846.
 See also Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007), 6: "The Church's faith is
essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the
table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary
aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God's word,
faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the
Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: 'faith is expressed in
the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith.' For this
reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the
Church's life: 'thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever
anew!' The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the
deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the
mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history
bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to
the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his
 Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 42: AAS
93 (2001), 296. See also Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas
Est (25 December 2005), 12: "Divine activity now takes on dramatic form
when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the
'stray sheep', a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his
parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who
looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his
prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of
his very being and activity. His death on the Cross is the culmination
of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in
order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical
form": AAS 98 (2006), 228.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006):
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
 The lived experience of the ancient Church in time of persecution
should be a source of enlightenment for all, as should the teaching
given on this matter by the Church of Rome herself. Rome rejected the
rigorist positions of the Novatians and the Donatists, and appealed for
a generous attitude of pardon and reconciliation towards those who had
apostatized during the persecutions (the "lapsi"), and wished to be
readmitted to the communion of the Church.
 John Paul II, Message to the Catholic community in China Alla
Vigilia (8 December 1999), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 15
December 1999, p. 5.
 Cf. Mt 4:8-10; Jn 6:15.
 Cf. Is 42:1-4.
 Cf. Jn 18:37.
 Cf. Mt 26:51-53; Jn 18:36.
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty
Dignitatis Humanae, 11.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006):
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 28.
 Benedict XVI, General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006):
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 174. Cf.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 857 and 869.
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 10:
AAS 90 (1998), 648.
 Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 447.
 Statutes of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA),
2004, art. 3.
 Homily for the Jubilee of Bishops (8 October 2000), 5: AAS 93
(2001), 28. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the
Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 6.
 Ibid., 27.
 Benedict XVI, Address to new Bishops (21 September 2006): AAS 98
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen Gentium, 21. Cf. also Code of Canon Law, c. 375 § 2.
 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 22. Cf. also
"Preliminary Explanatory Note", No. 2.
 China Catholic Bishops' College (CCBC).
 At the universal level, see, for example, the provisions of art.
18, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights of 16 December 1966 ("Everyone shall have the right to freedom of
thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to
have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either
individually or in community with others and in public or private, to
manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and
teaching") and the interpretation, binding for Member States, given to
it by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in "General
Comment 22" (paragraph 4) of 30 July 1993 ("the practice and teaching of
religion or belief includes acts integral to the conduct by religious
groups of their basic affairs, such as freedom to choose their religious
leaders, priests and teachers, the freedom to establish seminaries or
religious schools and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious
texts or publications").
At the regional level, then, see, for example, the following
commitments, assumed at the Vienna Meeting of the Representatives of
States participating in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in
Europe (CSCE): "In order to ensure the freedom of the individual to
profess and practise religion or belief, the participating States will,
inter alia ... respect the right of these religious communities to ...
organize themselves according to their own hierarchical and
institutional structure ... select, appoint and replace their personnel
in accordance with their respective requirements and standards as well
as with any freely accepted arrangement between them and their State".
(Concluding Document of 1989, Principle No. 16 of the Section 'Questions
relating to Security in Europe"). Cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical
Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae, 4.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral
Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 20.
 See, in this regard, the relevant norms of the Code of Canon Law
(cf. c. 378).
 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
 Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 265-272.
 For a reflection on the doctrine and spirituality of the priest and
on the charism of celibacy, I refer to my address to the Roman Curia (22
December 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007,
 Cf. John Paul II, Message to the Church which is in China on the
Seventieth Anniversary of the Ordination in Rome of the First Group of
Chinese Bishops and on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Institution of
the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy in China La Memoria Liturgica (3 December
1996), 4: AAS 89 (1997), 256.
 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March
1992), 70: AAS 84 (1992), 782.
 Ibid., 29: AAS 84 (1992), 704.
 John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia
(6 November 1999), 46: AAS 92 (2000), 521. Cf. Benedict XVI, Address at
Fifth World Meeting of Families in Spain (Valencia, 8 July 2006): "The
family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for
society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique
good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the
total and generous self-giving of their parents. To proclaim the whole
truth about the family based on marriage as a domestic Church and a
sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all ...
Christ has shown us what is always the supreme source of our life and
thus of the lives of families: 'This is my commandment, that you love
one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to
lay down one's life for one's friends' (Jn 15:12-13). The love of God
himself has been poured out upon us in Baptism. Consequently, families
are called to experience this same kind of love, for the Lord makes it
possible for us, through our human love, to be sensitive, loving and
merciful like Christ": AAS 98 (2006), 591-592.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 47.
 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22
November 1981), 3: AAS 74 (1982), 84.
 As the Synod Fathers of the Seventh Ordinary Assembly of the Synod
of Bishops observed (1-30 October 1987), in the formation of Christians
"a post-baptismal catechesis in the form of a catechumenate can also be
helpful by presenting again some elements from the Rite of Christian
Initiation of Adults with the purpose of allowing a person to grasp and
live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility received at
Baptism": John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 61: AAS 81 (1989), 514. Cf.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1230-1231.
 Homily on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Israel, 24 March 2000), 5:
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 29 March 2000, p. 9.
Purpose of the Letter 
THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH
Globalization, modernity and atheism 
Willingness to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue 
Communion between particular Churches in the universal Church 
Tensions and divisions within the Church: pardon and reconciliation 
Ecclesial communities and State agencies: relationships to be lived in
truth and charity 
The Chinese Episcopate 
Appointment of Bishops 
FOR PASTORAL LIFE
Sacraments, governance of dioceses, parishes 
Ecclesiastical provinces 
Catholic communities 
Vocations and religious formation 
The Lay Faithful and the Family 
Christian initiation of adults 
The missionary vocation 
Revocation of faculties and of pastoral directives 
A day of prayer for the Church in China