As a frequent visitor to China, I would like to comment on the article "Religious persecution in China continues" (July AD2000) from Catholic World News.
To function freely, all Catholic churches in China have to be state- controlled and are therefore indicated as belonging to the "open" or "Patriotic" Catholic Church. Although a few years ago it was not allowed to pray openly for the Pope, now Catholics in China are allowed to do so.
When I attended the 10.30am Sunday Mass in English, celebrated by a local Chinese priest last September in the state-controlled Roman Catholic Cathedral in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), the General Intercessions began with "Lord, we pray for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, Bishop James Lin, and all the priests in China ...". At the end of the Canon, John Paul II was mentioned again. After Mass the Chinese clergy mixed freely with the faithful.
Every Sunday there are two more Masses in Cantonese, all very well attended. Confessions were heard during each Mass. Young Chinese nuns, all smartly dressed in their religious habits, were openly selling religious articles after Mass. Catholic Bibles and Missals are freely available.
Catholics visiting China should have no reservations in attending Sunday or daily Masses in any of the "open" churches, or have any fear of getting into trouble with the Chinese authorities by doing so.
The existence of a so-called "underground" Catholic Church has therefore become superfluous, as their members can now, like Catholics from all over the world, freely attend - and with a clear conscience - the services of these "open" Catholic churches. By doing so, they will also avoid any unnecessary harassment or worse by the Chinese authorities.
Priestly and religious vocations are on the increase. The Diocese of Hong Kong still sends on a regular basis, as it did in the past with the approval of the Chinese authorities, some of their best theologians to the state-controlled seminaries all over China, whose students will become priests in state-controlled or "open" Catholic churches.
Hong Kong, China