Vatican Grants Platform to Pro-Beijing Chinese Bishop

Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty

ROME — The Vatican offered a speaking platform this week to Shanghai Bishop Joseph Shen Bin who used the occasion to promote the “Sinicization” of the Catholic Church in China.

Speaking at the Pontifical Urban University on the Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica, Bishop Shen delivered an address insisting on the need for “Sinicization,” which requires that religious institutions demonstrably embrace State Socialism and the leadership of the atheistic Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“The Chinese government’s religious freedom policy has no interest in changing the Catholic faith,” Shen insisted, “but only hopes that the Catholic clergy and faithful will defend the interests of the Chinese people and free themselves from the control of foreign powers.”

In early 2023, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) unilaterally named Shen as the new bishop of Shanghai in open breach of its 2018 accord with the Vatican, which requires the former approval of both the Vatican and Beijing for all episcopal appointments.

The Vatican declared it had given no approval for the installation of the new bishop of Shanghai, China and only learned of the incident “from the media.”

File/A group of pilgrims from Communist China waves a red flag during the Pope Francis weekly general audience in St Peter Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said that the Holy See was informed in April 2023 of Beijing’s decision to transfer Bishop Joseph Shen Bin to Shanghai but only learned of the bishop’s installation “from the media.”

Shen was appointed to the post by the state-run Council of Chinese Bishops, an organization of which Shen himself was the head. Shen pledged to uphold the CCP’s principles of Chinese Church independence and self-administration and the campaign of “Sinicizing” Catholicism in China.

Chinese law prohibits children under the age of 18 from entering a church or receiving any religious education, and the government-approved Protestant church, the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement,” explicitly bans its members from bringing their children up in the Christian faith, labeling the practice “brainwashing.”

In October 2023, Beijing passed a “Patriotic Education Law” requiring churches and religious groups to adapt their educational activities to promote the party’s official ideology.

“The state is to guide and support religious groups, religious institutes, and religious activity sites in carrying out patriotic education activities, enhancing religious professionals’ and believers’ identification with the great motherland, the Chinese people, Chinese culture, the Chinese Communist Party, and socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the law states.

According to Shen, who is also vice-chairman of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), the role of the Church is “to provide the explanations of theological classics, doctrines, and canons that align with the requirements of socialist core values.”


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