Author, apologist, and all-around great guy Steve Ray (IgnatiusInsight.com author page) has posted some thoughts (along with some great pics) about China and Pope Benedict's recent letter to the Catholics of that country:
Janet and I traveled to China a while ago to see the country for ourselves. We wanted to walk of the Great Wall, see Mao's Tomb and Tiananmen Square and meet some local Catholics. All that we did. We even saw the Panda Bears. ...
We went to Mass in Shanghi. It was an amazing experience. It was the authorized Catholic Church — above ground, with bishops appointed by Beijing. It was a beautiful old Catholic Church filled to the brim with people. Large TV monitors were providing the songs and readings in Chinese and English. Everyone was exceedingly devout and reverent. Many arrived early to pray the Rosary.
The Mass was celebrated with much care and the homily was exceptional. The Chinese Mass would put many American parishes to shame. No one got up and left early. After Mass many gathered at the Marian Grotto near the Church for more prayer. I asked questions — though many could not speak English or didn't want to talk. I could understand their hesitation.
But we finally found a man who could speak English and was not afraid to talk with us. I asked him about the Church. He said the "legal" Church, the one above ground is full of people and he thought it was good. He said it provides the Sacraments to the hungry who would otherwise not have the Church or a priest. My guess is that belonging to the underground Church is dangerous and inaccessible to most Chinese.
I asked him what the big difference was between the State Church above ground and the illegal Church functioning underground. He stated plainly, "The state Church is loyal to Beijing; the underground Church is loyal to Rome."
Read the entire post. For more on the difficult and often confusing situation regarding the Catholic Church in China, read "Two Chinese Churches? Or One?" (IgnatiusInsight.com, June 2006), an interview with Fr. Daniel Cerezo, Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, by Anthony E. Clark, professor of Asian history at the University of Alabama. And, if the topic of China and Catholicisim is of interest, order Christians in China: A.D. 600 to 2000, by Fr. Jean Charbonnier, available from Ignatius Press in August.