Even at 85 years old, retired Auxiliary Bishop Ignatius C. Wang tries to visit China at least once a year and keep up on developments in the Catholic Church there. 

The Beijing-born former auxiliary bishop of San Francisco told Catholic San Francisco that the church’s situation there has been “normal.”

“I really have a great faith in China, and the persecution, well, we can understand that. Communism is atheism. It’s against any religion,” said Bishop Wang, who celebrates his 60th priestly ordination anniversary this year.

Given the circumstances of the Catholic Church in China, which is divided between an underground church and a state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Bishop Wang said “the deal with the Vatican is very good.”

“The agreement acknowledges you have the last word, but we recommend,” he said. “There are nearly 6,000 bishops in the world, how many would the pope know personally? It has to be local, as long as they do it conscientiously. I just hope it doesn’t happen that they send bad ones on purpose for Rome to approve.”

Even after the agreement signed nearly a year ago, Catholic bishops and priests belonging to the underground church in China continue to be imprisoned and campaigns to remove crosses and bulldoze churches persist. Bishop Wang said persecution of the church tends to originate on a municipal or provincial level, reflecting local corruption, ambition and rivalry rather than national directives from the Communist leadership.

Bishop Wang said persecution is also a constant burden for the church.

“Compared to the history of the church, this time is not worse than any other time,” he said. “The church is there, the foundation is a big rock but the storms always come and blow. That’s normal. If you expect nothing, that’s not normal.

“Look at here, we have persecution right here,” he continued. “Right now they want us to reveal confession’s secrecy. I’d rather go to jail. Isn’t this persecution?”

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.