The Vatican’s secret deal with the Chinese government signed on September 22, 2018, has done nothing to improve the religious freedom climate of Chinese Catholics.
Based on the findings of the just-released 2020 Annual Report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the situation in China continues to deteriorate for followers of the Roman Catholic faith.
USCIRF is making several “recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s promotion of freedom of religion or belief abroad in 2020.” In its report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”
China is again cited as a country of particular concern for its increased persecution of all religions. The report also cites that the religious freedom conditions in China are worsening with technology employed to track religious believers: “The Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor religious minorities.”
Additionally, the Chinese government continues its demolition derby of Christian and Catholic churches and places of worship. The omnipresent Chinese Communist Party (CCP) police state is deploying its vast technological resources to crack down on religions by removing any and all Christian icons and symbols from houses of worship. The USCIRF report noted the particular campaign of terror against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church who refuse to join the state-run Patriotic Association:
Local authorities continued to harass and detain bishops, including Guo Xijin and Cui Tai, who refused to join the state-affiliated Catholic association. Several local governments, including Guangzho city, offered cash bounties for individuals who informed on underground churches. … In addition, authorities across the country have removed crosses from churches, banned youth under the age of 18 from participating in religious services, and replaced images of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary with pictures of President Xi Jinping.
This recent report underscores the abject failure of Pope Francis’ rapprochement with the Xi government. While the Vatican claimed to seek unity between the Patriotic Church and the faithful Underground Church, the Underground Church has endured an unrelenting crackdown of persecution and harassment since the deal was signed 18 months ago.
According to the Vatican, the deal involved the appointment of bishops. Although the terms are still secret, Pope Francis is believed to have recognized the 7 excommunicated Chinese bishops, previously appointed by the Chinese government-run Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). Also, as part of the agreement, the Vatican is believed to have asked two bishops from the faithful Underground Catholic Church to step down from their positions. No other terms have been disclosed under this provisional bilateral agreement between China and the Holy See.
Retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has been an outspoken critic of the Vatican’s deal with Xi, calling it a “suicide pact and a total sellout.” With this latest grim assessment by USCIRF, Cardinal Zen is proving to be a prophet who repeatedly warned the Vatican about the danger of negotiating with the Communist Chinese.
Throughout the Vatican’s negotiations with the Communist government, Zen begged Pope Francis not to be so naive about the Chinese Communists and urged the Pope not to sign any deal. Zen predicted that the Francis Vatican is “sending the flock into the mouths of the wolves. It’s an incredible betrayal.”
The USCIRF report also affirms Zen’s foreboding portrayal of the deal that “the consequences will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the church in China, but for the whole church because it damages the credibility.”
Incredibly, Pope Francis refuses to condemn the ongoing religious persecution of Catholics and Christians in China. The Vatican remains silent over the arrest of the 15 leaders of the Hong Kong freedom march by the CCP in early April.
Johnnie Moore, one of the USCIRF Commissioners, powerfully and specifically condemned China’s violation of religious freedoms:
Meanwhile, the international order, in pursuit of self-interest, continues to let China play by its own rules, and especially at the United Nations. This is absolutely inexcusable, and those nations around the world who ignore China’s malevolence may eventually find themselves subservient to it. It is past time for our world bodies, and our liberal democracies, to demand more from China.
Countless examples abound that the Vatican has cast its lot with Communist China by its shocking silence over the persecution of Chinese Catholics and its gratuitous and bizarre praise for China’s human rights. The world is far less safe now that the Holy See is now subservient to China.
In the words of Cardinal Zen, the Vatican has “delivered the Church into the hands of the enemy.”