Friday, June 3, 2011

Thoughts on China and Catholicism

      One of the most interesting facets of our trip thus far has been to examine the role Christianity currently plays in China. On Sunday, we were able to attend a Catholic Mass held in English at a local Church on the nearby island of Gulang-Yu. The Church was humble but nice and a large projector screen was placed adjacent to the alter to provide the English translations of the prayers and lyrics for the songs. Overall, the actual mass was very similar to a normal American mass and the english spoken by both Father Chen and the lectors was quite good and easy to understand. The church at Gulang-Yu also had a very lively folk group that performed the music for the mass and it was apparent how much passion they had by the fact that at least three to four full verses of every song were performed. In addition, the folk group performed a musical recitation of the ‘Our Father’ and other prayers throughout the ceremony as well. After the mass, we met with Fr. Chen and some of the parishioners who were celebrating the baptism of their first child.
            On Wednesday morning we were able to meet with Father Chen to discuss Chinese Catholicism and his experience as being part of a Christian minority that amounts to only about 1% of the total population. After also being briefly introduced to the Bishop of Fujian Province, Father Chen provided some insight into the state of Christianity in China by discussing the history of Chinese Catholicism and the effect that the communist revolution had on the church. The development of the state-approved Patriotic Church and its relations with both the Holy See and the underground Chinese Catholic Church was very fascinating to me. Because of the revolution, the Church’s development in China is very unique and has been filled with a number of ups and downs. Fr. Chen stressed that while the two groups now have very cordial relations, there are still some difficulties that arise when the Patriotic Church puts its own agenda ahead of the official Church. Another interesting aspect that we discussed with Fr. Chen was the intermingling of Confucian principles with Christianity. Confucianism really has become so intertwined in and integral to Chinese culture and society so it was interesting to hear the ways in which they overlap and in how Confucian teachings can manifest themselves in Christianity. When I originally had thought of China, I did not see the country as having any sort of relationship to Christianity. However, I now know some of the religious history here and how the church is growing and evolving along with the rest of China.

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