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Bishop emeritus Ignatius Wang and Bishop emeritus John S. Cummins

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U.S. Catholic China Bureau honors Bishops Cummins, Wang
October 18th, 2016
By Michele Jurich

The U.S. Catholic China Bureau will honor Oakland Bishop emeritus John S. Cummins and San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Ignatius Wang with the Matteo Ricci Award at the bureau’s Nov. 3 awards dinner.

The Berkeley-based bureau is not a diplomatic or human rights organization, rather the mission of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau is to provide resources and information to those who have serious and professional interest in the Catholic Church in China, the religious situation and general situation in China, said its executive director Passionist Father Robert Carbonneau.

“We serve as a resource to bridge relationships,” said Father Carbonneau, “and to be of service to whoever contacts us. We keep a public educational and pastoral influence in the United States, and try to do that in China as well, to Catholics who request things from us.”

The award is named for Matteo Ricci, the 16th-century Jesuit priest and missionary to China, remembered for his adaption to Chinese culture.

“This is not an annual award,” Father Carbonneau said. “We do this when we feel it’s appropriate to give an award.”

Bishop Cummins has served on the board of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau for more than two decades, Father Carbonneau said, even before the bureau moved from Seton Hall University in Orange, N.J., where it was founded in 1989, to Berkeley in 2012.

“Bishop Wang is a representation of the steadfast faith of Chinese Catholics,” said Father Carbonneau. “Both of these men represent a voice of Ricci in a very modern sense. They’re both honest and humble.”

Bishop Wang, who remains active in the Chinese Catholic community in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was the first Chinese bishop appointed in the United States.

The bureau emerged, Father Carbonneau said, “out of the need for re-engagement and contact between the religious orders that had been involved in the China mission in the U.S.”

“This was a very exciting possibility in ‘89,” he said. “Religious orders with legacies in China were once again being contacted by Chinese Catholics. Everybody thought this church was dead.”

Educating U.S. Catholics on the Catholic Church in China, and fostering opportunities for service between American Catholics and Chinese Catholics are among the goals.

“The Chinese Catholic Church is certainly suffering, but it’s not being persecuted in the way that it had been persecuted as intently in the 1950s,” Father Carbonneau said.

The bureau is located in a Victorian house that is owned by the Interfriendship House Association; Bishop Cummins serves on its board. “This is an organization founded to bring Chinese scholars, post-docs, to have the opportunity to go to school and live in this building,” Father Carbonneau said.

The bureau is funded by donors, events such as the awards dinner and a schedule of missionary preaching across the country.

Father Carbonneau counts Bishop Cummins among the major influences on the bureau’s work. Both Father Carbonneau and his predecessor, Jesuit Father Michel Marcil would seek Bishop Cummins’ counsel.

“First of all, he’d listen,” Father Carbonneau said. “Then he’d answer optimistically, even if he was cautious. Even if he was cautious, he’d be optimistic.

“Then he would contextualize by saying, ‘Remember, we’ve been involved with China for a long, long time.’”

Bishop Cummins would also draw on his experience with organizations such as the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, which he also documents in his memoir, “Vatican II: Berkeley and Beyond,” which he published last year.

U.S. Catholic China Bureau

Matteo Ricci Award dinner
Nov. 3, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Edward W. Chin Auditorium
388 Ninth St., #290, Oakland
$125 per person; $95 per ticket for groups of five or more

From October 20, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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