Updated: Sept. 24, 2018 at 5:25 p.m.
(Beijing—Sept. 22, 2018) Beijing officials and the Vatican struck a deal today, mending the tenuous relationship between the two and paving the way to mutually appoint bishops, which could subject churches currently not under government control to scrutiny and persecution.
The deal, the details of which are not yet fully known, thaws decades of tension between the Holy See and the Communist Party, which both parted ways after refusing to officially ordain the clergy recognized by the other.
In order to exist as a legal Catholic church in China, the church must be registered with the government, submit to routine censorship and monitoring, and be overseen by a government-appointed bishop. In the days before the agreement, clergy loyal to the Vatican and the uncensored teachings of the Catholic church would lead their own, underground congregations.
However, in a bid to have more direct control over Catholicism in the country and, according to The New York Times, its growth, the Vatican has decided to jointly appoint bishops alongside the Party. At the same time, China has been carrying out its revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, which puts more stringent restrictions on non-government churches and imposes penalties on those who run and attend them, causing mass persecution. As the Vatican backs the Communist Party’s nominees, it may inadvertently subject those who risked their freedom to remain loyal to it to increased persecution, as government officials may now use the excuse that they have the Vatican’s support to commit further atrocities.
Even before the deal was official, bishops who had served unofficial churches were targeted for refusing to step down to make way for government-appointed bishops.
In response to the agreement, ChinaAid President Bob Fu said, “While we understand the eagerness of Vatican for searching more legitimacy in the eye of the Chinese Communist Party, this reported deal is nothing but a betrayal of both the millions of suffering persecuted Christians in China and the global Catholic Church. This could be a repeat of the 1940s Hitler’s Germany, when the German state church consented to the persecution and slaughtered millions of Jews. Ironically, how can the Vatican respond with a good clear conscience for this appeasement deal while the CCP just launched a secret war vowing the wipe out of underground Catholics and Protestants?”
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by Chinese Catholics, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.