ROME — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met on Friday with his counterpart in the Vatican, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, to celebrate their bilateral accord on the naming of bishops.
According to a Vatican press release of the meeting, the two leaders evoked the positive developments of the ongoing relations between the Peoples Republic of China and the Holy See and especially “the importance of the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops, signed on 22 September 2018.”
While the Vatican has celebrated the secret agreement, the provisions of which have never been disclosed, as an important milestone in Sino-Vatican relations, critics have denounced the accord as naïve Vatican capitulation to the powerful Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a betrayal of the millions of members of the underground Catholic Church in the country.
The accord’s most visible critic has been the former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who has attributed the agreement to Pope Francis’s ignorance of Chinese communism.
“Francis may have natural sympathy for Communists because for him, they are the persecuted,” Zen wrote in a 2018 op-ed. “He doesn’t know them as the persecutors they become once in power, like the Communists in China.”
In an interview this week with LifeSite, Cardinal Zen continued in the same vein, insisting that communists “never accept compromise.”
“They want full surrender. And so now we are at the bottom. They finished the operation selling the Church,” he said.
“With a totalitarian regime, there’s no possibility of any talk or bargaining. No, no,” Zen said. “They just want you on your knees.”
Ever since the deal with China was signed, observers suggest that the CCP’s persecution of Christians has grown more intense rather than diminishing.
Last month the U.S. government released a report stating that the persecution of Catholics has worsened in China since the Vatican signed its deal with the Communist Party regarding the naming of bishops.
The annual report of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) revealed an overall deterioration of religious liberty in China over the year 2019.
“In September 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holy See, paving the way for the unification of state-sanctioned and underground Catholic communities,” the report stated. “Subsequently, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increased persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy.”
“The Party-led Catholic national religious organizations also published a plan to ‘sinicize’ Catholicism in China,” the report continued, referring to the stated aim of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of forcing all religions to conform their teachings and practices to the party line.
Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has doubled down on the “sinicization” of religion, the report’s executive summary notes. “Scholars and international rights groups have described religious persecution in China over the last year to be of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution,” it added.
The report concluded that the situation of Catholics in China is now worse than it was before the Vatican signed its 2018 accord with the CCP.
“Observers and Catholic believers expressed concern that the agreement did not provide sufficient support for the Chinese Catholic community, with one scholar pointing out that the authorities’ persecution of both underground and official Catholic communities has actually intensified over the last year under the ‘sinicization’ campaign,” it declared.