Catholics warn of church schism if Vatican makes a deal with China

Catholics warn of church schism if Vatican makes a deal with China

[At NewVatican’s behest the Church in China will turn upside: The Patriotic Church will become the official church, and the Underground Church the schismatic one! – AQ moderator Tom]

By Simon Denyer – February 12, 2018

BEIJING — A group of influential Catholics published an open letter Monday to express their shock and disappointment about a report that the Vatican could soon reach a deal with the Chinese government, warning that it could create a schism in the church in China.

The Holy See has been in negotiations for several years with the Chinese Communist Party and is now believed to be close to an agreement over the appointment of bishops in China.

That agreement, which would likely see responsibility for the appointment of bishops shared between the Vatican and the government, could pave the way for the eventual reestablishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican, cut in 1951. It is also expected to see seven state-appointed bishops, who had been excommunicated by previous popes, recognized by the Vatican.

But 15 leading Catholics, many of them from Hong Kong, have written to the bishops all over the world arguing that the Chinese government should play no role in the selection of bishops, arguing that the moral integrity of the seven “illicit” bishops was questionable.

“They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly,” they wrote. “If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.”

The 15 Catholics include university professors, lecturers, researchers, human rights activists and lawyers, mostly from Hong Kong. They warned a deal with the Chinese government could do irreparable harm, and that recent regulations put into effect this month allow for even greater government scrutiny over religion in China.

The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, while the state-backed China Patriotic Catholic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the church, they said.

In his keynote speech to a major Communist Party Congress last October, Xi underlined that the religion in China must also be “Chinese in orientation” and guided by the Communist Party to adapt to socialist society.

The Catholics complained that religious persecution had never stopped in China and warned that they could not see any possibility that it would, even if a deal was reached.

“We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power,” they wrote.

“We earnestly ask you, with the love on the people of God, appeal to the Holy See: Please rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.”

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