FrankenPope to Bow (i.e., Kowtow) to Communist China With Concession on Bishops

FrankenPope to Bow (i.e., Kowtow) to Communist China With Concession on Bishops


Vatican to move to end standoff [by capitulating] and gain authority [by giving it away] by recognizing seven excommunicated prelates [including some clandestinely married ones]

Literally or metaphorically: “Don’t worry about the war; it’s all over but the shooting!” – Samuel Goldwyn; nothing said about the status of the “unrecognized” bishops of the “underground” Church or of its 10.5 million faithful Catholics; the “patriotic” church claims 7.3 million adherents – AQ moderator Tom

By Francis X. Rocca in Vatican City and Eva Dou in Beijing
Feb. 1, 2018

Pope Francis has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government, a concession that the Holy See hopes will lead Beijing to recognize the pope’s authority as head of the Catholic Church in China, according to a person familiar with the plan.

For years, the Vatican didn’t recognize their ordinations, which were done in defiance of the pope and considered illicit, part of a long-running standoff between the Catholic Church and China’s officially atheist Communist Party.

The pope will lift the excommunications of the seven bishops and recognize them as the leaders of their dioceses, according to the person familiar with the situation. A Vatican spokesman declined to comment.

The decision reflects the Holy See’s desire for better relations with China—where Christianity is growing fast, though mostly in the form of Protestantism—and for an end to division between the government-controlled church and a larger so-called underground church loyal to Rome. In China in 2015 there were 7.3 million Catholics in the government-backed church and 10.5 million outside of it, according to the World Religion Database.

The pope’s conciliatory approach stands out at a moment when China is tightening its grip on religious practice under the more assertive leadership of President Xi Jinping.

Many Catholic parishioners and priests in China have shunned state control—and state-appointed bishops—to keep faith with the Vatican. Believers have been imprisoned, harassed and otherwise persecuted.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong and a prominent champion of such Catholics, warned against any deal between China and the Holy See. “Winston Churchill said, ‘How can we deal with a totalitarian regime? How can we trust a totalitarian regime?’ They are simply not trustworthy,” he said in an interview.

Some in the church see a rapprochement with an increasingly powerful Beijing as necessary for maintaining influence in China. Cardinal John Tong, who until August was bishop of Hong Kong, called a rapprochement the “lesser of two evils” last year in an influential essay.

The Vatican has told Beijing informally of the pope’s decision, which he has yet to sign into law, but which could be announced this spring, according to the person familiar with the situation.

It would then be up to Beijing to accept a proposed agreement giving the pope veto power on future bishop candidates, whom he would approve or veto after their selection by the Chinese government. Beijing’s major condition for that agreement has been that the pope recognize the seven bishops, the person said.

China’s ruling Communist Party keeps a tight hand on all religious practice, mandating that religious institutions be free of foreign control. New regulations that went into effect on Thursday require that religious institutions gain government approval for teaching plans, overseas pilgrimages and other activities.

The pope’s recognition of the seven bishops would resolve a headache for Beijing, which has refrained from appointing bishops without Vatican approval in recent years, in part to show good will and avoid the negative publicity, said Anthony Lam, executive secretary at the Catholic Church-run Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.

The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the government body that oversees China’s Catholics, referred requests for comment to the government’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, which in turn didn’t respond to faxed requests.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told the Italian daily La Stampa this week that a deal on bishop appointments would remove the major impediment preventing Chinese Catholics “from living in communion with each other and with the pope.”

Beijing broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951. Since the 1980s, the Vatican and Beijing have cooperated informally to agree on most bishop appointments, but the government has periodically appointed bishops without Vatican approval.

Vatican officials fear that failure to reach an agreement will lead Beijing to appoint many more bishops on its own, widening the divide with Rome and with Chinese Catholics outside the government-backed church, the person familiar with the decision said.

On the other hand, a deal would represent a breakthrough: the first official recognition by the Communist government of the pope’s jurisdiction as the head of the Catholic Church in China.

An agreement on bishop appointments would leave unresolved other major questions about the Catholic Church’s status in China, including the position of more than 30 bishops recognized by Rome but not by Beijing. The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican would remain a distant goal.

In December, Vatican officials traveled to China to ask bishops in the dioceses of Shantou and Mindong who shun the government-controlled church to step down in favor of government-appointed bishops. They are the first two “underground” bishops to be asked to take such a step.

In Mindong, where most Catholics are outside the government-backed church, the former underground bishop will continue to lead those Catholics as assistant to the government-selected bishop, the person said.

The Vatican’s actions drew criticism from Cardinal Zen, who traveled to Rome last month to make a personal appeal to the pope over the two bishops being asked to step aside.

Cardinal Zen said he still hopes to rally enough public pressure to get the Vatican to put the negotiations on hold, “even if someone condemns me as the great sinner” for his efforts.

Phone calls to the Shantou and Mindong dioceses weren’t answered on Thursday.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said at a regular media briefing on Wednesday that the government wants to improve relations with the Vatican, but that she had no information on the two bishops asked to step down.

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2 comments on “FrankenPope to Bow (i.e., Kowtow) to Communist China With Concession on Bishops

  1. Chinese bishop confirms Vatican sacked him in Beijing

    Michael Sainsbury and reporters in Hong Kong
    China February 1, 2018

    Sacked Chinese Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, who is at the center of the latest storm around the Holy See’s controversial talks with China’s communist government, has broken his silence on being called in to Beijing by Vatican diplomats.

    The confirmation of the Vatican’s role in replacing two bishops originally appointed Rome, with two bishops who were appointed by the Communist Party controlled Catholic Patriotic Association — including one who has been excommunicated by Rome — has continued to rock China’s so-called underground Catholic Church.

    “But these acts, in fact, are scarifying the underground community for the benefit of half the China Church, which is the open community, not the whole,” said a researcher who does not want to offend the Vatican.

    In a phone call with, 88-year-old Bishop Zhuang of Shantou in Southern Guangdong province admitted that he went to Beijing “in December, where I met with four Vatican officials” but he was reticent to say much more. The Chinese government is well known for its monitoring of the communication devices of its critics or potential critics.

    People close to the bishop, not known for his public display of emotions, said he was deeply and visibly upset by the ordeal.

    * * *

  2. The Church requires that anyone baptizing another, even if the one administering the water and pronouncing the correct words is not Catholic, must have at least the implicit intention of doing what the Church “does” seems to be a key issue in this nightmare.
    The official “church” in China is merely a Potemkin Village, devoid of any real “spiritual officiality”, any objective ecclesial history, as in the case of Eastern Orthodox sects. That issue is, of course, one of many obstacles to Rome even thinking of “dealing” with Red Chinese Communists.
    And yet, it would seem that the poor Chinese who approach the Red “church” might receive the graces of regeneration and also effect valid marriages from what amounts to an absolutely unfit and unacceptable entity …
    … IF the “minister” in either case “intends” properly, that is.
    Thus, if Rocca’s indication of a formal deal this coming Spring occurs, putting actually officially Catholic bishops into subordinate roles under Red “bishops”, then in some cases the legitimacy of baptisms and marriages might be less of a question mark.
    That may be the single silver thread in the Stygian thunder cloud under which this disaster continues to unfold.

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