China Continues Religious Repression While Inking New Deal with Vatican

Pope Francis meets a group of faithful from China at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

ROME — The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has thumbed its nose at the Vatican, continuing its flagrant abuses of religious freedom even while negotiating its new deal with the Vatican, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported Monday.

Last week, the Vatican announced it had extended its controversial 2018 agreement with the CCP regarding the naming of Catholic bishops in the country, stating in a communiqué that “the two Parties have agreed to extend the experimental implementation phase of the Provisional Agreement for another two years.”

The Vatican said that the deal is of “great ecclesial and pastoral value” and that its initial application had been “positive.”

Critics of the agreement have noted that persecution of religious believers in China has intensified since the original signing of the accord in 2018 and many members of the underground Catholic Church in China have said they feel “abandoned” by the Vatican.

In recent weeks, the Communist government has “ramped up enforcement of the prohibition on the sale and distribution of religious texts,” reported CNA, with the justification that religious texts are considered as “contraband” in China.

The article cited a recent report from the human rights journal Bitter Winter, which stated that throughout China, “authorities are issuing strict orders to ban the publication of all religious materials not approved by the government, punishing anyone who violates them.”

On September 14, education and environmental protection bureaus in Luoyang, in the central province of Henan, inspected a local printing house to make sure it was not publishing banned religious materials, Bitter Winter revealed.

“They checked my storehouse, scrutinized all records, and even looked at paper sheets on the floor, to see if they have prohibited content,” the printing house manager declared. “If any such content is found, I’ll be fined, or worse, my business will be closed.”

“Inspections are too rigorous,” he added. “Any religious content makes the issue political, not religious. Although banners on the streets say people are allowed religious beliefs, the only faith they can practice freely is that in the Communist Party.”

The former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has declared that the Vatican’s renewed deal with the CCP is a “complete defeat” for faithful Catholics.

“With the protection of this agreement, the government forced the people from the underground to join the Patriotic Association… which is objectively schismatic,” Cardinal Joseph Zen said, adding that the underground community has “practically disappeared” as a result.

“That’s not victory, that’s a defeat — complete defeat,” Cardinal Zen said.

Earlier this year, Cardinal Zen declared that while the Vatican seeks compromise with China, the CCP wants “complete surrender.”

In his ongoing criticism of the Vatican’s rapprochement with the CCP, Zen has insisted that Pope Francis is “naïve” in dealing with a country about which he knows little.

“So the situation is, humanly speaking, hopeless for the Catholic Church: Because we can always expect the Communists to persecute the Church, but now [faithful Catholics] don’t get any help from the Vatican,” Zen said.

“The Vatican is helping the government, surrendering, giving everything into their hands,” he added.

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