OF THE CHURCH IN CHINA
Ad Apostolorum Principis
June 29, 1958
THE TRIPLE CROWN
THE POPE'S OFFICIAL HEADDRESS
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates,
Archbishops, Bishops and other Ordinaries in
Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See
Venerable Brethren and dear children, greetings and Our Apostolic
At the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles amid the majesty of the Vatican Basilica, Our immediate Predecessor of immortal memory, Pius XI, as you well know, duly Consecrated and raised to the fullness of the Priesthood "the flowers and . . . most recent saplings of the Chinese Episcopate" ("Acta Apostolicae Sedia," vol. 18, p. 432.). On that Solemn occasion he added these words: "You have indeed come, Venerable Brethren, to see Peter and you have, moreover, received from him the Shepherd's Staff which you use to undertake your Apostolic journeys and to gather together your sheep. It is Peter who with great love has embraced you who constitute no small part of the hope for the spread of the Truth of the Gospel among your own people" (Ibid.). The memory of that allocution, Venerable Brethren and dear children, comes to Our mind today in particular when the Catholic Church in your fatherland is experiencing conditions of great suffering and loss.
The China of Promise Is Now the China of Persecution
The hope of our great predecessor was not in vain, nor did it prove without effect, seeing that new bands of Holy Pastors and Heralds of the Gospel have been joined to that first group of Bishops whom Peter, living in his successor, had sent to feed those choice flocks of the Lord. New works and Religious undertakings flourished among you in spite of many difficult obstacles. We too shared in and increased that hope when we later with very great joy established the Hierarchy in China and saw opening up yet wider paths for the extension of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
But, alas, after a few years the sky was overcast with storm clouds. On your Christian communities, many of which had been flourishing from times long past, there fell sad times full of sorrows. Missionaries, among whom were many Archbishops and Bishops, Priests, Religious--both men and women--together with many of the faithful, were either cast into prison or became subject to every kind of retraint and suffering.
On that occasion We could not do otherwise than voice Our sorrow and rebuke concerning the unjust attack in Our Apostolic Letter of Jan. 18, 1952, entitled "Cupimus Imprimis" ("Acta Apostolicae Sedia," vol. 44, pp. 153, ff.). In that Letter, for the sake of Truth and conscious of Our duty, We declared that the Catholic Church should be considered a stranger to no people on earth, still less hostile to any. Rather, moved by a mother's anxiety, it embraces all peoples in an equal Charity and seeks no earthly advantage, but employs what powers it possesses to attract the souls of all men to seek what is eternal. We also added that Missionaries promote the interest of no particular nation. They come from every quarter of the earth but are united by a single love, God, and seek and hope for nothing but the extension of the boundaries of God's Kingdom. Consequently, it is clear that their work is neither without purpose nor is it harmful; rather is it beneficent and necessary, since it aids competent Chinese Clergy in the field of the Christian Apostolate.
Some two years later, on Oct. 7, 1954, another Encyclical Letter was addressed to you, beginning "Ad Sinarum Gentem" ("Acta Apostolicae Sedia," vol. 47, pp. 5, ff.), by which We intended to refute accusations made against Catholics in China. We openly declared that Catholics yielded place to no one, nor could they do so, in true loyalty and love of their native country. Seeing also that there was being spread among you the doctrine of the so-called "three autonomies," We warned by virtue of that Universal Teaching Authority which We exercise by Divine Command that this same doctrine as understood by its authors, whether in theory or in the consequences which follow from it, cannot receive the approval of a Catholic, since it turns minds away from the essential Unity of the Church.
In these days, however, We have to draw attention to the fact that the Church in your lands in recent years has been brought to yet worse straits. In the daily attacks, indeed, which you have met--and in the midst of so many great sorrows this brings Us great comfort--unflinching Faith has not been wanting, nor has the most ardent love of the Divine Redeemer and of HIs Church failed. Of this unflinching Faith and ardent love you have borne witness in innumerable ways, only a small number of which are known to men, but for all of which you will some day receive from God an eternal reward.
Nevertheless We consider it to be Our duty to declare openly and with a heart filled to its depths with sorrow and anxiety that matters touching you are, by deceit and cunning endeavor, changing so much for the worse that the false doctrine already condemned by Us seems to be approaching its final stages and to be causing its most serious damage. For, by a particularly subtle method of acting, an association has been created among you to which has been attached the title of patriotic, and Catholics are being forced by every means to take part in it.
The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics Is Evil in Purpose
The purpose of the association--according to innumerable proclamations--is to unite the Clergy and people in a love of Religion and fatherland so as to propagate patriotism, to promote peace among peoples, and at the same time to support that brand of socialism which has been introduced among you and to foster its development and extension with a view to helping civil officials in defending what they call political and Religius liberty by giving them active support. But it is crystal clear that, once these general statements about defense of peace and the fatherland have been made, which can mislead simple people, an association of this kind is striving to give realization to certain calculated and pernicious plans.
For, under the appearance of patriotism, which in practice is shown to be a deceit, an association of this kind aims particularly at making Catholics gradually embrace tenets of atheistic materialism by which God Homself is denied and the principles of Religion rejected.
Under the guise of defending peace this association receives and spreads false suspicions and accusations by which many in the ranks of the Clergy, including Venerable Bishops and even the Holy See itself, are accused as if they admit and promote schemes for earthly domination or give ready and willing consent to exploitation of the people, and as if, finally, they on the basis of preconceived opinions are acting with hostile intent against the Chinese nation.
While it is declared essential that every kind of freedom in Religious matters needs to flourish and that this makes easier mutual relations between the Ecclessiastical and civil powers, this association is in reality aiming at setting aside and neglecting the rights of the Church and establishing its complete subjection to civil authorities.
Hence, all members of the Church are coerced into approving those unjust prescriptions by which Missionaries are cast into exile and by which Bishops, Priests, Religious men, Nuns and the faithful in considerable numbers are thrust into prison; to consent to those measures by which the Jurisdiction of so many Legitimate Pastors is persistently obstructed; to defend also those wicked principles which are totally opposed to the Unity, Catholicity and Hierarchical Constitution of the Church; to admit those first steps by which the Clergy and faithful are undermined in the obedience due to Legitimate Bishops; and to separate Catholic Communities from the Apostolic See.
In order to spread these wicked principles more efficiently and to fix them in everyone's mind, this association--which, as We have said, boasts of its title of patriotism--uses a variety of means including violence and oppression, numerous publications printed at great length, and group meetings and congresses. In these the unwilling are forced to take part by incitement, threats and deceit. If any bold spirit strives to defend truth, his voice is easily smothered and overcome, and he is branded with a mark of infamy as an enemy of his native land and of the new society. Notice also should be made of those courses of instruction by which pupils are forced to imbibe and embrace this false doctrine. Priests, men and women Religious, Ecclesiastical studemts and faithful of all ages are forced to go to these courses. An almost endless series of lectures and discussions laasting for weeks and months so weakens and benumbs the strength of mind and will that a kind of psychical force extracts an assent which contains almost no human element, an assent which is not freely asked for as it should be.
Add to these the methods by which minds are upset--by every means, in private and in public, by traps, deceits, grave fear, by so-called forced confessions, by custody in a place where citizens are forcibly "reeducated," and those "Peoples' Courts" to which even Venerable Bishops are ignominiously dragged for trial.
Against these methods of acting which violate the chief rights of the human person and trample on the sacred liberty of the sons of God, all Christians from every part of the world, indeed all men of good sense, cannot refrain from raising their voices with Us in real horror, and from uttering a protest by deploring the damaged conscience of their fellow men.
Caesar Must Render to God the Things That Are God's
Since these crimes are being committed in the name of patriotism, We consider it Our duty again to call to the mind of all that the Church by its very teaching exhorts and warns Catholics to love their own country with sincere and strong love, to give due obedience in accordance with natural and positive Divine Law to those who hold public office, to give them active and ready assistance for the promotion of those undertakings by which their native land can in peace and order daily achieve yet greater prosperity and set about further true development.
The Church has never ceased to impress on the minds of her children that declaration of the Divine Redeemer: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Luke 20:25.). We call it a declaration because it establishes as an objective principle of the Christian Religion that it does not oppose true customs and advantages of the fatherland and can never obstruct them.
However, it must be asserted that, if Christians are bound in conscience to render to Caeesar, that is to human authority, what belongs to it, Caesar likewise, or those who control the state administration, cannot exact obedience when it is a question of usurping God's rights or when they are forcing Christians to act at variance with their Religious duties and to sever themselves from the unity of the Church and its Lawful Hierarchy.
At those times, casting aside all doubt, let each individual Christian calmly and firmly repeat those words which Peter and the other Apostles used in answer to the first persecutors of the Church: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29.).
Those who favor and promote with emphatic insistence the interest of this association, which claims a monopoly on the title of patriotism, speak over and over again of peace and admonish Catholics earnestly to exert all their efforts to establish it. On the surface those words are excellent and righteous, for who is more to be praised than the man who prepares the way to introduce and establish peace?
Peace, however--as you well know, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons--does not rest in words only and does not rely on changing formulas which may be suitable for the moment but which contradict the real plans and practices. These plans are not in conformity with the meaning and method of true peace, but rather with hatred, discord and mental deceit. A peace worthy of the name must be founded on the principles of Charity and justice which He taught Who is the "Prince of Peace" (Isaias 9:6.), Who adopted this title as a kind of royal standard for Himself.
True peace is that which the Church desires to be established, namely, stable, just and fair, founded on right order and which links all men together--citizens, familes and peoples--by the firm ties of the rights of the Supreme Lawgiver in the first place, and then by the bonds of mutual fraternal love and cooperation.
Peacefully looking forward to and hoping for this harmonious dwelling together of nations, the Church demands that each nation preserve that degree of dignity which becomes it. For the Church, which has ever kept a friendly attitude toward the various events in your Ministry, has long ago spoken through Our late Predecessor of happy memory and expressed the desire that "full recognition be given to the Legitimate aspirationss and rights of that nation, more populous than any other, whose civilization and culture goes back to the earliest times and which in past ages, with the development of its resources, has had periods of great prosperity and which, it may be reasonsably conjectured, will become even greater in the future ages, so long as it pursues justice and honor" (Note of Pius XI to the Apostolic Delegate in China, Aug. 1, 1928: "Acta Apostolicae Sedia," vol. 20, p. 245.).
On the other hand, as has been made known both by broadcast messages and by the press, there are some--even among the ranks of the Clergy--who do not shrink from casting suspicion on the Apostolic See, and hint that it has evil designs toward your country. By adopting false and unjust convictions, they willfully confine within a limited scope the Supreme Teaching Authority of the Church, and insist that there are certain questions, such as those which concern social and economic matters, in which Catholics may set aside the teachings and the directives given by this Apostolic See.
This opinion--it seems entirely unnecessary to demonstrate its existence--is entirely false and full of error because, as We declared a few years ago to a special meeting of Our Venerable Brethren in the Episcopacyy:
"The power of the Church is in
no sense limited to so-called 'strictly Religious matters,'
but the whole matter of the natural law, its institution, interpretation and application, in so
far as the moral aspect is concerned, is within its power.
"By God's appointment the observance of the natural law concerns the way by which
man must strive toward his supernatrual end. The Church in this already shows the way
and is the guide and guardian of men with respect to their supernatural end" (Sermon to
College of Cardinals and Bishops, Nov. 2, 1954; "Acta Apostolicae Sedia." vol. 46, pp. 671-672.). "This truth
had already been wisely explained by Our Predecessor, St. Pius X, in his Encyclical
Letter "Singulari Quadam" of Sept. 24, 1912, in which he made this statement: 'All
actions of a Christian man, so far as they are morally good or bad, that is, agree with or are contrary to natural and Divine Law, fall under the judgment
and jurisdiction of the Church' " (Acta Apostolicae Sedia," vol. 4, p. 68.).
Moreover, when these narrow limits have been arbitrarily set and proclaimed, though these men make profession of a desire to obey the Roman Pontiff with regard to truths to be believed and to observe what they call Ecclesiastical Directives, they yet proceed with such holdness that they rafuse to obey the precise and definite prescriptions of the Holy See. They protest that these refer to political affairs because of a hidden meaning by the author, as if they took their origin from some secret consipiracy against their own nation.
The Holy See Has Exclusive Rights to Choose Bishops
It is necessary for Us to mention in this place a sign of this falling away from the Church, an event truly of great seriousness which fills Our soul--that of the Father and Universal Pastor of the faithful--with great grief beyond words. Those who profess themselves most interested in the welfare of their country have for some considerable time been striving to disseminate among the people a belief which is devoid of all truth, according to which Catholics have the power of directly electing their Bishops. As excuse for this kind of election they allege the need for looking after the good of souls with all possible speed and of entrusting the Administration of Dioceses to those Pastors who, because they have not resisted Communist desires and forms of political practice, have been accepted by the civil power.
We have also heard that not a few such elections have been held contrary to all right and Law; and that, in addition, setting aside a public and severe warning which this Apostolic See had employed toward those involved, certain Ecclesiastics have rashly dared to receive Episcopal Consecration.
Since, therefore, such serious offenses against the Discipline and Unity of the Church are being committed, it becomes a duty in conscience for Us to warn all that this is completely at variance with the Doctrine and Principles on which rests the right order of the Society Divinely Instituted by Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the Canons that it pertains to the One Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the Episcopate (Canon 331, sect. 3.). But if, as happens sometimes, it is of necessity permitted to some persons or groups to take part in some fashion in the selection of an Episcopal candidate, this is lawful only if the Apostolic See has granted it in express terms and in each particular case to clearly defined persons or groups.
Granted this exception, it follows that Bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who on the contrary have been elected and Consecrated in defiance of the express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of juristiction--since jurisdiction passes to Bishops only through the Roman Pontiff, as We admonished in the Encyclical Letter "Mystici Corporis" in the following words: ". . . As far as his own Diocese is concerned, each (Bishop) as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet, in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the Lawful Authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff" (Encyclical "Mystici Corporis." June 29, 1943.).
Illegitimate Bishops Destroy Unity of Obedience and Discipline
We again referred to this teaching when We later addressed to you the Letter "Ad Sinarum Gentem.," in which We said: "The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by Divine Right on the the Supreme Pontiff, comes to Bishops by that same right, but only through the Successor of Peter to whom no only the faithful but also all Bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of Unity" (Encyclical "Ad Sinarum Gente," Oct. 7, 1954.).
Acts pertaining to the power of Holy Orders performed by Ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the Consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious.
To this action the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: "He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber" (John 10:1.). The sheep indeed know the true shepherd's voice. "But a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers" (John 10:4-5.).
It does not escape Us that those who thus withdraw from obedience put forward a practice which was licit in previous centuries in order to justify themselves with regard to those functions which they have, alas, unrighteously assumed. Yet everyone sees that it is the overthrow of all Ecclesiastical Discipline if in any way at all it is lawful for anyone to restore arrangements which are not valid any longer since the Supreme Authority of the Church has long ago Decreed otherwise. They assuredly in no sense excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying.
We mean that Discipline which has been established not only for China and the regions recently enlightened by the light of the Gospel, but for the whole Church--a Discipline which takes its sanction from that Universal and Supreme Power of caring for, ruling and governing which Our Lord granted to the Successors in the Office of St. Peter the Apostle.
Well known are the terms which the Vatican Council Solemnly defined:
"Relying on the open testimony
of the Scriptures and abiding by the wise and clear
Decrees both of Our Predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and the General Councils, We
renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, by virtue of which all the
faithful must believe that 'the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold Primacy
over the whole world, and the Roman Pontiff himself is the Successor of the Blessed
Peter and continues to be the True Vicar of Christ and Head of the Whole Church, the
Father and Teacher of all Christians, and to him in the Blessed Peter the full Power of
caring for, Ruling and Governing the Universal Church was committed by Our Lord
Jesus Christ. . . . '
"We teach. . . . We declare that the Roman Church by the Providence of God holds
the Primacy of Ordinary Power over all others, and that this Power of Jurisdiction of
the Roman Pontiff, which is truly Episcopal, is immediate. Toward it, the Pastors and
the faithful of whatever Rite and Dignity, both individually and collectively, are bound
by the duty of Hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in matters
which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which concern the Discipline and
Government of the Church spread throughout the whole world, in such a way that, once
the unity of communion and the profession of the same Faith has been preserved with
the Roman Pontiff, there is One Flock of the Church of Christ under One Supreme
Shepherd. This is the Teaching of the Catholic Truth from which no one can
depart without loss of Faith and salvation" (Vatican Council, Session IV, Chap. 3, p. 484.).
It follows from what We have said that no authority whatever, save that which is proper to the Supreme Pastor, can render void the Canonical Appointment granted to any Bishop; that no person or group, whether of Priests or of laymen, can lay claim to the right of nominating Bishops; that no one can lawfully confer Episcopal Consecration unless he has received the Mandate of the Apostolic See (Canon 953.).
The Guilty Parties Are Excommunicated
Consequently, if Consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the Unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunation reserved specialissimo modo to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by anyone who received consecration irresposibly conferred and by the actual consecrator (Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, Apr. 9, 1951; "Acta Apostolicae Sedia," vol. 53, p. 217).
What, then, is to be thought about the excuse added by members of the association promoting false patriotism, viz., that they had to act as they did because of the need to attend to the care of souls in those Dioceses which were then bereft of their Bishops?
It is obvious that no thought is being taken of the spiritual good of the faithful if the Church's Laws are being violated. Besides, it is not a question of vacant Sees, as they wish to argue in defense. Often it is a question of Episcopal Sees whose legitimate rulers have been driven out or who now languish in prison or are being obstructed in various ways from the free exercise of their power of jurisdiction. It must also be added that there have been cast into prison or exiled or removed by other means those Clerics whom the Lawful Ecclesiastical Superiors had designated, in accordance with Canon Law and the special Powers received from the Apostolic See, to act in their place in the Government of the Dioceses.
It is surely a matter for grief that, while Holy Bishops noted for their zeal for souls are enduring so many trials, the occasion is seized in their difficulties to establish false shepherds in their place so that the Hierarchical Order of the Church is overthrown and the Autority of the Roman Pontiff is treacherously resisted.
And some have advanced to such a degree of arrogance that they transfer blame for these unfortumate and lamentable events brought about by the deliberate plan of the oppressors of the Church, to the Apostolic See itself. Yet all know well that, because it is deprived of free and safe communication with the Dioceses in China, the Apostolic See has been unable and still is unable to have appropriate knowledge of suitable candidates for election to the Episcopal Dignity as often as conditions demand. This knowledge is absolutely necessary, both in the case of your nation and that of any other.
The Faithful Must Stand Firm
Venerable Brethren and dear children, thus far We have told you with what anxiety We are moved by the errors which certain men are trying to sow among you and by the dissensions which are being aroused. Our intention is that enlightened and strengthened by the encouragement of your common Father, you may remain steadfast and without blemish in that Faith by which We are United and by which alone We shall obtain salvation.
But now, following the ardent dictates of Our mind, permit Us to declare with what close and particular feelings of intimacy We draw near to you. To Our mind come those torments which rend asunder your bodies or your minds, particularly those which the most valiant witnesses of Christ are enduring, among whose number are not wanting several of Our Venerable Brethren in the Episcopate. The trials of all these We daily offer on the Altar to the Divine Redeemer, together with the prayers and sufferings of the whole Church.
Be constant, then, and put your trust in Him according to the words: "Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7.).
He sees clearly your anguish and your torments. He particularly finds acceptable the grief of soul and tears which many of you, Bishops and Priests, members of Religious Congregations and faithful from the ranks of the laity, pour forth in secret when you behold the efforts of those who are striving to subvert the groups of Christians among you. These fears, these bodily pains joined to tortures, and the blood of the Martyrs of the past and of the present day, will be precious tokens to bring it about that, through the most powerful intervention of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, Queen of China, the Church in your native land will at long last regain its strength and happier days will shine upon it in a calmer age.
Encouraged by this hope, to you and to the flocks committed to your care We most lovingly grant in the Lord as a token of Divine Gifts and a Sign of Our special good will, Our Apostolic Benediction.
From St. Peter's in Rome, June 29, the Feast of the Holy Apostoles Peter and Paul, in the year 1958, the twentieth of Our Pontificate.
POPE PIUS XII
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