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Heaven and Humans Are One

The Witness of the Chinese Catholic Ministry in a Global Context


Bit-shing Abraham Chiu

When religious and political leaders debate the question of establishing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China, they frequently misunderstand that religious relation inevitably intertwines with politics. For instance, the Vatican has to terminate any diplomatic relation with Taiwan if reconciliation is to be considered between the Vatican and the Chinese Catholic Church (CCC). Religious relation, nevertheless, exceeds this conditional requirement. This book opens a window to globalization of the CCC, though for its survival, it still has to shelter under the umbrella of the Beijing government. There is in fact a bridge to connect the Vatican and the CCC in a religious way, i.e., communion and inclusiveness. The ministry of the Chinese Catholic Spiritual Center, thus, is to create possible channel for mutual understanding between the two. The author raises a crucial question whether the Vatican would separate the political management from religious leadership in order that new hope for reconciling the Vatican to the CCC through religious communion can be prospected.
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Chapter One: A Tooth for a Tooth (以牙還牙): The Separation of China and the Vatican–a Historical Analysis


← 18 | 19 → CHAPTER ONE

From the first Catholic missionary Giovanni Montecovino who arrives in China in 1294 (dies in 1328, Beijing) to the present, many missionaries try to inculturate Christian message within the Chinese society throughout the seven hundred year history of Catholicism in China. Nevertheless, Mgsr. De Tournon, the papal delegate to China who represents the Vatican, irritates the Chinese emperor by forbidding the Chinese rites of venerating ancestors. This is the famous “rites controversy” in 1704.

The Propaganda Fide (Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelizatione) issues a decree “Cum Deus Optimus” on November 20, 1704, forbidding “worship” of Confucius and ancestors. The emperor of Qing dynasty could not tolerate the foreign interference with his own norm of honoring Confucius and ancestors. Finally, the Holy See sends an oath against and forbids the Chinese “rites.”

The Chinese emperor is irritated and turns his wrath against Catholic missions in the country. Then in 1724, Emperor Yong Zheng (雍正) issues an edict to the papal delegate Msgr. De Tournon in which preaching is forbidden under death penalty. Another decree is issued On July 11, 1742, namely, “Ex Quo Singulari” which forbids the use of “tian” (Heaven, 天) and “Shang Di” (emperor of above, 上帝) while approving “tian zhu” (the Lord of Heaven, 天主). The Vatican also forbids the use of tablets bearing the characters “jing tian” (revering Heaven, 敬天) and the participation in sacrifices to Confucius or to ancestors.2 This political and religious event has a far-reaching and negative influence in the...

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