Timely Reconnections Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 31 August 2008 04:13

I received an e-mail from an old friend of mine, Amanda Clark, who, with her husband, Tony, is spending four months in Beijing while Tony leads the University of Alabama Chinese Language and Culture Program. I met Tony and Amanda while he was finishing his doctorate in Chinese history, literature and religion at the University of Oregon. Tony may look like a mild-mannered professor, but he has black belts in multiple martial arts. Anyway, Tony co-authored a brief article on the differences between Buddhism and Catholicism here that is a timely follow-up to my post on Buddhist-Christian tensions in Korea.

He has also posted a recent article on Catholicism in China that you can read here. It's a great account of the state of the Church in the most numerous country on earth. Here's a snippet from his first report:
Despite the advances and relative freedom that Chinese Catholics enjoy today, as China basks in world attention during the Olympics, there remain uncomfortable signs of New China's rejection of religion under its official Communist structure. As I attempted to hail a cab to go to Mass at 5:30 a.m., drivers repeatedly told me that they did not know the address or place of the church, despite the fact that it is located in one of Beijing's most famous districts (Xuanwu), and just down the street from Tiananmen.

At last a rather eccentric taxi driver drove me to the church, being sure to tell me along the way, "Chinese people no longer believe in spirits." Most of the other drivers simply refuse to drive to a Christian church. In addition, when I sat down to write this report, all links from the Vatican's web page were blocked.

On one hand, I am quite free go to Mass along with the large crowds of other believers—that is, if I can find a cab. And I am free to mention and discuss the Pope with my fellow Catholics here in China—but I cannot access the Vatican website and Benedict XVI's official webpage. So there are still serious problems, yes, but during Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, those problems disappear for a while as the timeless mysteries of the faith are celebrated in the capital of China.
He'll have a few other articles written up at Ignatius Insight over the next few months. I'll try to keep an eye out for them and share them with you.