Introduction - The Meaning and Meanings of Reconciliation

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John B. Zhang Shijiang (b. 1964) is the director of the Hebei Faith Press in Shijiazhuang city, Hebei. He studied at the Shenyang Catholic Theological College and Shanghai Sheshan Seminary, and was ordained a priest on April 2, 1989, at Weixian, Hebei, by Bp. John Liu Dinghan. After working at the Kwangchi Research Center, in Shanghai, he founded Faith Press in Hebei 1991. After three years at the East Asian Pastoral Institute, in Manila, he completed his Degree in Pastoral Studies.


Dedicated to the memory
of my later Bishop Joseph Hou Jinde
who supported my publishing work
and passed away when I studied abroad;
and to Fr. Joannes Hofinger, S.J.,
a principal founder of East Asian Pastoral Institute,
who was the teacher of my later Bp. Hou in Hebei, China.

A Daily Prayer for Reconciliation

O Heavenly Father,
God of Compassion and mercy,
we are your people, and you are our God,
teach us to love you as well as love our brothers and sisters;
lead us to turn back to you as your Son Jesus shows others;
help us to forgive one another as you forgive us;
to understand others as you understand us,
to have compassion on others as you show compassion to us,
to reconcile with one another as you reconcile us through your Son Jesus.

Al mighty God,
you know that, at the present time,
there is a division among your Chinese Catholics.
We are all brothers and sisters in you,
but we are like strangers to one another......
God of life and of community
you created us, not in isolation, but in togetherness,
How painful you have experienced the division among your disciples!

O Lord, Jesus,
Son of the living God,
our dear friend and beloved brother:
teach us to love the Father as you love Him,
guide us to acknowledge our sins and limitations as you help others,
help us to follow you as your true disciples;
to act as your friends;
to make us a loving community as your brothers and sisters;
to unify us as one, as you and your Father, and the Spirit are one.
You have prayed for unity of your disciples and future believers,
you have reconciled many people to your Father and to one another,
so we plead you for grant us reconciliation and unity.

O Lord Jesus of ren yi,
our jiuxing (the Saving Star) and faithful God,
inspire us to seek reconciliation:
teach us to love our enemies as you love those who kill and torture you;
to rediscover brotherhood feeling in you as you show us the Trinitarian relations;
to trust in your mercy as well as to trust one another in your love;
to approach one another as you approach us.

O Lord Jesus, universal God,
God of all nations, all peoples and cultures,
come to elevate Chinese culture as you have purified the Jewish;
come to sanctify the Chinese ren as a universal ren;
come to overcome our Chinese limitations and narrow-mindedness;
for you alone can transfigure our human culture and virtue to divine.
Come to heal a world wounded by divisions,
for you alone can transform our hearts and make them one.

Lord Jesus, God of humankind,
the jiuxing of Chinese people,
you love us and protect our Chinese people,
reconcile us as one in a big Christian family and as one in you,
lead us to your kingdom now and forever.



The Greek word for "reconciliation" is katallasso. Its basic meanings are: (1) "to change" as a reflexive action, (2) "to exchange" as a transitive action ot thought, (3) "to reconcile oneself" as an intransitive action (Kittel 1964, 254). Roget's lists many synonyms for reconciliation such as rapprochement, understanding, conciliation, detente, pacification, appeasement, agreement, settlement. The words antagonism, misunderstanding, hostility, anger, enmity are its antonyms (Landau 1990, 564).

Since reconciliation has many aspects, it is not surprising that studies on it are often based on different standpoints. John O. Nelson (1969) has offered a practical way of reconciliation based on human experiences in creating community. In his little handbook, he has devised a series of seven settings, designed for use in a circle of five to twenty people, in which he leads them through the experiences of reconciliation in practical, specific ways--in such areas as self-centeredness, war, sectarianism, the generation gap, racial antipathy, and interreligious imperialism. Each of the sessions always starts and closes with a prayer in the suggested simple liturgy. G. K. Beale (1989) has investigated reconciliation in 2 Corinthians from the Old Testament biblical and historical view. Richard M. Gula (1984) has done a well-known research study on the "Sacrament of Reconciliation"--a sacramental angle. He offers us an overview of reconciliation which can lay the foundation for a revitalized sacrament of healing. Beginning with the idea of community and hospitality, he provides a refreshing look at the nature of grace, the function of the sacraments, sin in its modern perspective, the history of Christian action. He ends with a practical evaluation of the new Christian ritual. To disclose the underlying mystery of the church in relation to Christ and sinners, James Dallen (1986) traces the complex development of ecclesial repentance from the Church's first centuries to the present time. He shows that the Church has always worked with sinful members, assisting them to live out the implications of their baptismal conversion and recognizing them as members of its assemblies. Tripod (1989, 29-66; 1992-4-70), which is linked to the Catholic Church in China (CCC), has published two special issues on reconciliation for the CCC, on the biblical, canonical, and spiritual levels. As is well known, Pope John Paul II is called an apostle of reconciliation by scholars (Wurth 1985b, 96-107).

In this book I present Robert Schreiter's research in reconciliation as recorded in his book titled Reconciliation: Mission and Ministry in a Changing Social Order. On a social level, Schreiter (1992a,18-27) illustrates three forms of false reconciliation which do not reflect Christian or biblical understanding: reconciliation as a hasty peace, reconciliation instead of liberation, and reconciliation as a managed process. In the chapter on the Christian message of reconciliation, Schreiter explores Pauline writing and takes the suggestion of JosŽ Comblin. Three levels in the theology of reconciliation in Paul's epistles are discerned: a Christological level, in which Christ is the mediator through whom God reconciles the world to God's self; an ecclesiological level, in which Christ reconciles Jew and Gentile; and a cosmic level, in which Christ reconciles all powers in heaven and on earth (Schreiter 1992, 41-59).

Reconciliation with God is different from reconciliation between human beings. It is not a human work but the work of God. It is God who reconciles us to God's self. (Rom. 5: 10-11; 2 Cor. 5: 18-19.) On the first level, some wonderful insights are given by Schreiter.

1.God takes the initiative of reconciliation and carries it through the death and resurrection of Christ. No doubt, the process begins with the victim. But the victim draws strength from experiencing the mercy and love of God (1 Jn. 4: 10). That gives the victim the courage to reach out in trust again, and to overcome the ravages of alienation.
2. Reconciliation is something that we discover rather than achieve. God takes the lead in the process of reconciliation. So the incisive question is not: How can I bring myself, as victim, to forgive those who have violated me and my society? Rather, it is: How can I discover the mercy of God welling up in my own life, and where does that lead me?
3. We usually presume that evildoers or wrongdoers should repent and seek forgiveness. However, in the Christian understanding of reconciliation, it works the other way. We discover and experience God's forgiveness, and this promotes us to repentance. In the process, because the victim has been brought by God's reconciling grace to forgive the tormentor, the tormentor is promoted to repent of evildoing and to engage in rebuilding his or her own humanity.
4. The proper subject of reconciliation is the victim, not the oppressor.
5. Punishment neither guarantees repentance nor restores the humanity of the evildoers. Only forgiveness can bring the perpetrator to repentance.

On the second level is the reconciling of Jew and Gentile, God making one people of the Jews and the Gentiles (Eph. 2: 12-16; Col. 1: 22-23). Paul painfully came to realize that the chosen people of God, that is, most Jews, had rejected salvation from Jesus and become enemies of God, while a new chosen people were being created by God (Rom. 9-11). There was a need therefore for Jews and Gentiles to be reconciled--but not reconciled one to another but rather created into a new people, one flesh in the body of Christ. The body has been an important symbol which signifies communion between two groups.

On the third level, all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled in Christ (Col. 1:19-20; Eph 1: 9-10). This reconciliation must be understood in the light of Jewish and Hellenistic cosmologies.

A Christian understanding of reconciliation is summarized in five points by Schreiter (1992a, 59-62).

  1. It is God who initiates and brings about reconciliation.
  2. Reconciliation is more a spirituality than a strategy.
  3. Reconciliation makes both victim and oppressor new creations.
  4. The new narrative that overcomes the narrative of the lie is the story of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  5. Reconciliation is a multidimensional reality.

In other words, reconciliation is something that comes upon the victim, something that the victim discovers, rather than something that is achieved by a well-managed therapy or formulated process. It is thus more a spirituality than a strategy.

We realize that the reconciliation process usually begins with the victim, not the oppressor. The question is then immediately arises regarding the CCC: Who is the victim and who is the oppressor? According to Schreiter (1992b, 51), what may be more important is to ask: "Who, in experiencing that grace, have seen how they have been diminished by the experience of the last thirty years and yet also see how God is at work healing that history? It is those who are experiencing God's work in their hearts who will be the leaders in the reconciliation process." It is in this frame of reference that we look at the situation of division within the CCC.

Division in the Chinese Catholic Church

After the Cultural Revolution in 1976, Christians abroad were surprised to know that the CCC was still alive and that the great faith of the Chinese Christians still existed. However, when the Chinese communist government (CCG) carried out the policy of opening up to the outside world and of reforming the economy inside China in 1977, the CCC did not unite in an all-out effort to improve itself. Instead, division among the Catholic faithful took place. This division revealed the conflict between the Roman Curia and state and between the faith and political power as well as the gap between church teaching and the Chinese culture.

The public in general and the academic in particular agree that the following are the reasons for the division: Political relations are the most important factor affecting the division. The Vatican and China have not had normal diplomatic relations since the 1950s. The CCG has often protested the Vatican's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan; In fact there are people who regard this as a major stumbling block to the resumption of diplomatic relations with Beijing. Some people from inside as well as from China insist that the division is caused totally by the involvement of the CCP. However church authorities and most Christians abroad as well as many Chinese especially the faithful, think that division stems from the problem of loyalty to the papacy on the one hand versus a compromised attitude in the face of political pressure through membership in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA or CPA) and election of their own bishops without Vatican approval on the other hand. But most of the Chinese faithful, have been especially loyal to the faith as well as to the pope in spite of the isolation (Yuesheng 1994, 4). This fact only emphasizes that the issue of loyalty to the papacy is not the entire problem. We need to go further, to face and probe the essence of all conflicts and obstacles. We also need to understand the Chinese Catholics' attitude to faith, to Church, to law, to human relationships, and to welfare in the context of their culture, tradition, and political situation.

Through Christology, we realize a fundament: that the faith in Jesus that was brought to the Chinese was not meant to bring division and suffering but rather communion and well-being. Moreover, there is a vast common ground of both cultural and religious values for reconciliation within the CCC. Division therefore should be transcended in the way of Jesus, who worked for the unity of all people.

In Search of a Chinese Christology

At the present time many are concerned about, and do what they can for the unity of the CCC. The CCC has suffered from the division, and for more than a decade has been looking for ways to unite. Division is a scandal. It is like an open wound that does not heal and hurts not only Chinese Catholics and but the church as a whole. It is the main roadblock to evangelization in China today and tomorrow. This division is longs for unity. For the CCC it is the vital, central issue.

Through this volume I wish to contribute to the search for that inculturated Christology for Chinese Catholics. Thus, it is firstly a research work on the theme of reconciliation, which is focused on Jesus. Secondly, it is a discussion on alternative practical paths towards reconciliation, in the hope that it may inspire others to offer their own solutions. Thirdly, it is an urging that the roadblocks of reconciliation be removed so that the road to unity may be cleared of the theological traffic jam in China. This may even lead Chinese Catholics toward a wider reconciliation as well as toward greater evangelization in the third millennium.

Most researchers from outside China are very interested in the Chinese concept and practice of church and state. There are those who focus on the policies of the CCG/P, while other on the CCC and still others on the UC or CCPA. This is quite understandable because the CCG/P and CCC is viewed as "foreigners" by these researchers, and therefore of particular interest to them. As a Chinese Catholic from inside China, to me the attitudes and policies of the CCG, both groups of the CCC, as well as the Vatican are all important. Therefore I have tried to cover every aspect of the relevant groups or parties. However, in different areas, I may have analyzed and focused a little more upon one party than another. This is because I am very familiar with the CCG/P and CCC, especially the OC where I studied, lived, and served for more than a decade. Thus I find it easy to examine and probe for the essence of their conflicts. I do not discuss the broader history of and situation in China, because they are wellknown to everyone, especially Chinese Catholics. For instance, without doubt all see the period of the Cultural Revolution as a time of religious persecution. Many are aware too of the CCPA's attempt to break away from the Holy See in the past especially as it has acknowledged its mistakes. I also felt no need to make a historical investigation upon the CCG's policies. In contrast, sometimes policies of the Vatican and their historical backgrounds are very strange to many Chinese Catholics including myself and it is hard for them to understand the thinking of church authorities outside China. While this limitation poses an obstacle to my analysis of the issues, it also serves as a stimulus for me, to probe more deeply into the workings of these outside groups. At any rate, I do believe that any honest criticism and examination of either our Church or our own culture, is significant for reconciliation.

This book consists of five chapters. Chapter 1 reviews significant literature pertinent to the topic. It examines various attitudes towards division and reconciliation as well as studies on reconciliation in general. Chapter 2 inquires into the political and canonical aspects of division and indicates the obstacles to reconciliation and unity. Chapter 3 starts to discover the cream and richness of the Chinese culture, then discusses differences between Chinese and Western cultures, such as the Chinese understanding of relationship, justice, and law as contrasted with the Western European concepts of these realities. The differences and conflict between these two cultures play important roles in the course of division as well as the effort towards reconciliation. This chapter includes a theological reflection on division, reconciliation, and unity within the church. Chapter 4, which deals with reconciliation and tradition, develops from a discussion of human relationships to the properly Christological reflection on reconciliation. That is, we focus on Jesus, the model reconciler, from the tradition of the Old to New Testaments. This focus includes a discussion of the impact of Jesus's teachings on the Confucian concept of ren in Chinese culture, and its implications for either division or reconciliation in the CCC. This combination of Jesus's original message with elements in Chinese culture constitutes a new Christology. The final chapter summarizes and concludes this premise.

Judaeo-Christian Tradition and Chinese Culture

Using articles from relevant magazines or periodicals from the mainland as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and abroad, about the CCC, particularly in relation to division and reconciliation, I try to strike a balance in examining and reviewing the attitudes, concerns, and responses of all parties' representatives to division and reconciliation. Most of the documents and relevant articles of the OC have been published inside China and republished abroad, while the UC's documents and papers have been published abroad and circulated privately inside China. Most of the materials I have for this book, are publicly issued, even documents or papers from the UC. Some pieces of information come from private sources, while others are common knowledge in China.

Since China is huge and the situation of each province or diocese is different, sometimes very different, from one another, some examples I cite may not apply everywhere but just in general. Since I come from China, I have found it easier to delve into the Chinese situation and the issues of division and reconciliation, but a little harder to grasp the political world at large or Vatican documents. At the same time, when faced with the differences of Chinese and Western cultures, I have noticed not only their differences but also both the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese culture. It is not hard for a Chinese who studies abroad to reflect on both his country's positive and negative sides. I hold a strongly critical attitude toward my Chinese cultural heritage as well as the church. As an old Chinese saying goes, "Aizhiyueshen, Zezhiyueqie." (The more deeply I love someone, the stricter will I reprove that person). I can say that since I love the church and my culture very much, I have a duty to call attention to their deficiencies and weaknesses, so that they may develop.

I have also carefully perused the Vatican's published documents and policies, such as the exemptions, but I could not use some of its secret policies toward China. For instance, Exemption 7 mentions the ordination of priests but nothing about bishops. Yet why are there so many secret bishops' ordinations recognized by the Holy See? These legal bishops' ordinations show that there must be a principle for bishops, but it is not publicly known and I cannot cite it, but can only speak of its possibility.

The interaction between Judaeo-Christian tradition and Chinese culture must be marked by mutual respect.

We begin our understanding of Jesus in any context, including that of China, by reflecting on the concrete situation. In China there exist the division as well as the growing desire for reconciliation and unity between the UC and OC. To understand Jesus in China within the context of division, we also need to probe into the reality of reconciliation or unity. It is important to look into how the Chinese view reconciliation and the means to attain it. It is equally important to articulate the significance of Jesus precisely in and through these terms. In doing so we must make sure that we not only remain faithful to the experiences of people in the context of division and striving for reconciliation and unity, but also to the tradition which relies on faith in Jesus as the Christ.

Human experiences give rise to issues, questions, and concerns that challenge our church, our faith, and our theology. They give meaning and substance to our theological reflection and are the starting point of theology. The Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama (1974, 3 cited in de Mesa 1987, 9) insists that "Third World theology begins by raising issues, not by digesting Augustine, Barth and Rahner." The Second Vatican Council paid the same attention to this concern as seen in the opening paragraph of Gaudium et Spes. It realized that it is the human situation of people that sets, as it were, the agenda for theology.

The joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts." (Gaudium et Spes 1)

This starting point then leads us to look at religious heritage, the Judaeo-Christian tradition, from the perspective of such issues, questions, and concerns. Conversely the Tradition throws light on our experiences and our culture. Seeing Judaeo-Christian tradition and Chinese culture as two poles or an axis whose relationship is mutually respectful and critical, we can begin doing theology from any pole. Both poles are important for doing theology. De Mesa (1987, 4; see also de Mesa and Wostyn 1982, 1-9) insists that theology is born precisely from this interaction between two traditions of experiences: both tradition and culture affect and influence each other. Each culture or tradition of experiences has something positive to contribute towards the well-being of people (that is, salvation) and each ultimately derives its roots from the same source, God. Of course there are elements that need to be critically examined, assessed and challenged in the mutual interaction between both traditions. It is true that Judaeo-Christian tradition cannot be simply translated to, placed in, or even transplanted onto a different culture. And that culture cannot create its own Christian faith tradition without any connection or reference at all to the heritage of Jewish-Christian faith. However, for the present situation in China and for methodological reasons, the better way is to start with contemporary human experiences within the culture which call for a Christian interpretation. Issues, questions, or concerns within a given sociocultural context or contemporary human life are the pressing and down-to-earth matters for us Christians. Then there is the corollary process of a mutual but respectful and critical interaction between our present-day experiences and the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

We start with issues, conflicts, and concerns in chapters 1 and 2, then we move onto the cultural and theological reflections in chapter 3. From culture and theology in chapter 4 we go onto the Judaeo-Christian faith heritage, with the theological reflection study centering on Christology--although chapter 5 obviously touches on other areas of theology and cultures as well. Doing theology in the context and heritage of Chinese culture and the Christian faith, we may discover new dimensions of Christian praxis as well as of belief.