PEDRO DANIEL OLIVEIRA
Argentine priest Alberto Rossa believes that Catholicism has contributed to promote the unity of China due to its moral values. The missionary also demystified the problems of the Catholic Church in the PROC and adds the example of the good will of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association toward Claretian Publications, a publishing house managed by him.
You were born in Argentina and for 27 years you did pastoral and also editorial work in the Philippines. After that you established in Macau the Claretian Publications, a subsidiary of the Claret Publishing Group, which spans Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Macau, Bangalore, Chennai, Manila, Barcelona and Madrid. Why Macau?
In our congregation we had missionaries from the 1920s to 1949 who were in Anhui province of the People’s Republic of China. They were expelled like everyone else [Catholic missionaries, due to the Cultural Revolution] but there was always the desire in our congregation to do something for China. And since we were in this part of the world [in the Philippines], close to China, I volunteered and started to do something. I came, and so did other missionaries. Now some are in Macau, others in Hong Kong and also in Taiwan.
How about the Claretian Publications?
It’s a publishing house under the aegis of the Pastoral Bible Foundation, which is registered in the Philippines. We publish the Bible in 12 languages. We publish several books in traditional Chinese for Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. And for Mainland China we publish, especially the Bible, in simplified Chinese.
What is the importance of this work?
This is a base for me to work with teams of people in Mainland China and other parts of the world, especially for the publication of a new translation of the Bible in Chinese. Recently we published the New Testament and other books that are for seminary and pastoral use. As missionaries we cannot do a direct work in Mainland China, so indirectly we help in the formation of evangelizers.
Is there any institutional bridge between your publishing house and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association?
Publishing books is an open ministry because it cannot be underground. At the very beginning, starting in the 1990s, the first time when I was still in the Philippines it was necessary to ask for permission if I wanted to do something involving publications. I simply asked for permission from the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and to my surprise they were always very generous. They saw the materials that we wanted to publish and they said: “no problem.” Since we cannot distribute in Mainland China, I went to the biggest Catholic publishing house in the People’s Republic of China, which is the Faith Press. They cannot sell the books in the open market, but they have permission to publish and to distribute into the 6,000 parishes and associations that have permission to function.
Is Catholicism helping the People’s Republic of China to strengthen the country’s unity?
Definitely! Catholics want to preserve the culture and accept the people as they are. Even Government officials state that the moral values of the people are upheld in the Catholic Church. So with our publications we try to help anyway we can for the Gospel values to spread in China.
But why are there so many difficulties between China and the Vatican to establish a relationship?
It is very complicated. There were times when they were closer. Now we have hopes that there will be some contacts. Recently, a Chinese Catholic writer [Kin Sheung Chiaretto Yan] presented a manuscript called “Evangelization in China.” Later on I published the book under the name of “Sharing the Joy of the Gospel in China.” The last part of the book precisely deals with the difficulties of relationship between China and the Vatican. And this author, himself a Chinese who studied overseas, proposes some possible solutions.
Can you briefly tell us some?
The relationship should be firstly based on trust, respect and following the steps of not to invade and not being too harsh…
What do you mean by that?
Once in Beijing, long time ago, I asked why isn’t China more open in dealing with the Vatican. And what I’ve learnt from the answer that I got was that some authorities in China were wondering how was it possible that the Vatican offers an olive branch with one hand and on the other allows or tolerates that members of its Church would be always attacking China’s regulations.
Is it because of the concept that Western powers want to bring to China, and since Catholicism is really strong in the West, then China doesn’t understand the real intentions of this religion?
Not really. One of the problems now is that the Catholic Church has no control of the opinions of the people in the Church. You can have a Bishop or a person in the United States saying something very strong against the Government of China and since they are Bishops, somehow they represent the Church. On the other hand, we have seen from the Vatican recent signs of building bridges with China.
There is little knowledge of China in the West…
I think the people who are in the Vatican right now with Pope Francis know very well what’s going on in the People’s Republic of China and they are working on it. This is just my belief…
Do you know Pope Francis in person?
I don’t, but I can tell you something… The Vatican publishing house has the rights of what Pope Francis says and writes. But Claret Publishing Group holds the rights of the books that he previously wrote as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The books have been translated into 28 languages. Here in Macau, Claretian Publications has published several of these books in English and simplified and traditional Chinese.
What was the last book published?
It was not long ago. The title is “Open mind, Faithful Heart”, by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, in both traditional and simplified Chinese. It came out after the English version last year.