The United States bishops have issued a stinging rebuke to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), calling on American Catholics to pray for Chinese Christians and to inform themselves on the abuses being carried out by the government of Xi Jinping.
In stark contrast to the Vatican’s charm offensive on the CCP in the hopes of establishing full diplomatic relations with Beijing, the U.S. Bishops pull no punches in Wednesday’s communiqué, calling out the Chinese government for its egregious violations of religious liberty.
The Catholic Church in the United States is currently celebrating Religious Freedom Week, and chose to highlight the topic of the Church in China for Wednesday’s reflection, after previously focusing on healthcare workers and houses of worship.
“Pray for the freedom of the Church in China, and that the rights of all religious minorities would be respected,” the bishops urge Catholics in America.
“Under the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese citizens have limited religious freedom,” the bishops note. “Since 2013, religious persecution has intensified under a government campaign for the ‘sinicization’ of religion — an effort to have religions conform to government-sanctioned interpretations of Chinese culture.”
The estimated 12 million Catholics in China have been seriously impacted by the government’s “sinicization” campaign, the bishops observe. “While the Vatican has reached a provisional agreement with China on the issue of episcopal appointments, reports of persecution by the Chinese government persist as underground churches are closed and their priests detained, crosses destroyed, bibles confiscated, and children under 18 forbidden from attending Mass and receiving religious instruction.”
Along with the sufferings of persecuted Christians, the bishops also underscore the situation of Muslim minorities in China, particularly the Uighurs.
“Muslims have suffered grievous human rights abuses,” the bishops note. “Since 2017, 800,000 to possibly two million ethnic Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Hui Muslims have been arbitrarily detained in mass internment camps.”
For its part, the Vatican has studiously avoided criticizing the CCP, even when Catholics have been the victims of its suppression of religious practice.
Vatican observers have repeatedly noted the willingness of the Vatican to turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of Chairman Xi as part of an appeasement policy aimed at establishing long-term good relations with the Asian giant. Others have gone so far as to suggest that Vatican complicity is being bought by China to the tune of $2 billion per year in payoffs.
The pope himself has only had praise for China, insisting that its communist government protects religious freedom and that its “churches are full.” He has also reversed Church discipline to allow Chinese Catholic priests to enroll in the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which was set up under the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong as a parallel church to the church in Rome. Prior to the present pontificate, priests were forbidden from enlisting in what was considered a mockery of the Catholic Church.
Francis’ efforts to cozy up to the CCP have earned him only disdain from his critics, such as the former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who claims that due to his naivete, Pope Francis is “killing” the underground Church in China.
Meanwhile, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, has held up communist China as a model — indeed the best model — for living out Catholic social teaching today.