The Latest From Nuovo Roma Motel 6, i.e., Santa Marta: There Is an American Conspiracy Against the Agreement Between Rome and Beijing

The Latest From [Nuovo Roma Motel 6] i.e., Santa Marta: There Is an American Conspiracy Against the Agreement Between Rome and Beijing

BitterWinter

Sandro Magister – 5/29/18

Settimo Cielo reported on May 7 on the intensification of the anti-Catholic repression in Henan, the populous province halfway between Beijing and Shanghai, traditionally considered the cradle of Chinese civilization.

Just over a week later, however, the website Vatican Insider, known for its connections to Pope Francis, published under the byline of Gianni Valente a refutation of the fear that the Catholic Church is in the crosshairs of the Chinese authorities and that from the province of Henan the anti-Catholic repression could extend to all of China:

> China, the “strange case” of the Henan churches closed to children

In Valente’s judgment, in fact, the main intention of the Chinese authorities is to stop the proliferation in that province of the “domestic churches” of Protestants and apocalyptic sects, supported by the religious right in the United States for the sake of overthrowing the Chinese regime.

So the repression that is also hitting Catholic communities in Henan would be only a side effect of this overall and justified crackdown.

When instead – Valente concludes in his argumentation – the Catholic Church would be a firm embankment against these engulfing subversive sects. And an agreement between the Vatican and Beijing would turn out to be entirely to the advantage of the interests of the Chinese regime as well.

*

On May 22, however, Valente’s article was severely criticized by one of the leading world experts on the Protestant Churches and new Christian religious movements, Professor Massimo Introvigne.

Precisely in order to provide constant and truthful information on the growing presence of these religious realities in China, at the beginning of this month Introvigne created a website in English, Chinese, and Korean, expressly dedicated to this purpose and entitled “Bitter Winter.”

Introvigne’s criticism is focused above all on the sources – scanty, old, and full of errors – that Valente uses to describe the presence of the Christian sects in Henan.

But above all he contests the theory that Valente uses to justify the behavior of the Chinese authorities, a conspiracy theory that seems to apply to China today what was concocted a few decades ago for Latin America, where the spread of the neo-Pentecostal and evangelical movements, at the expense of the Catholic Church, was accused of being produced and financed by American imperialism.

Reproduced below is this second part of Introvigne’s article. But it is also very much worth reading in its entirety:

> Who Is Afraid of Bitter Winter?

Among the new movements of Christian origin that are present in China, which Introvigne cites in the article, there is one in particular, the Church of Almighty God, on which he recently published a very detailed dossier:

> The Case of The Church of Almighty God

In addition to being the founder and director of the website “Bitter Winter,” Introvigne is the director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, based in Turin.

For his part, it is useful to note that  Gianni Valente has been a friend of Jorge Mario Bergoglio since long before his election as pope, so close a friend that on the very evening of his election, March 13, 2013, Bergoglio called him at his home in Rome for a chat, and the phone was answered by his wife, Stefania Falasca, a journalist for the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, “Avvenire.” The news of the telephone call immediately spread around the world.

On May 22 – the same day on which Introvigne was replying to his article on the anti-religious measures in Henan – Valente published on Vatican Insider a commentary on the “ad limina” visit a few days before by the bishops of Taiwan:

> La “mission” (tutta politica) dei vescovi taiwanesi in Vaticano

The commentary is very critical of the stance taken by the Taiwanese bishops. A stance, in Valente’s view, that is not only “completely political” but also anti-papal, proof of which would be these words of the archbishop of Taipei concerning a hypothetical agreement between Francis and mainland China: “If they feel that the pope wants to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan, then they would start esteeming him less, and say: how can we have a pope like this, who wants to leave us?”

But let’s get back to the article by Professor Introvigne. Here are the passages that most directly concern the Catholic Church.

*

THE “ROCKEFELLER THEORY” DOESN’T APPLY TO CHINA, EITHER

by Massimo Introvigne

I would like to clarify that I regard “Vatican Insider” – the supplement on religion of the Italian daily newspaper “La Stampa” – as one of the best sources of news about the Catholic Church in the world. However, an article by Gianni Valente went in a different direction.

Valente is a personal friend of the present Pope, and a respected journalist in several fields. […] But the main purpose of his article is […] to attack consistent news “reported by local – often anonymous – witnesses” about police and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) harassment of Catholics in Henan.

Valente does not mention “Bitter Winter” explicitly, but we are among the few (together with “China Aid” and “Asia News”) that published daily news from Henan about attacks against Catholic churches and congregations there. News were obviously anonymous: the brave observers who report to us what is happening (and take pictures that we publish), if identified, would go to jail or worse.

Perhaps, Valente suggests, these reports are true, but one has to consider the peculiar situation of Henan, where both House Churches and “cults” such as The Church of Almighty God, which he believes are financed and perhaps created by American neo-conservatives, if not directly by the CIA, conspire to overthrow the Communist regime.

Trying to make China more democratic would be a worthy enterprise, and the CIA should be applauded for this, but the idea that American institutions finance The Church of Almighty God is ridiculous, although it is both true and not surprising that American Evangelicals (who are obviously not part of the CIA) support certain Chinese Evangelical churches. The largest  House Churches, however, are genuine and original Chinese creations.

Valente applies to China the discredited “Rockefeller theory” that was popular in Latin America in the 20th century. In some Latin American countries, the Catholic Church was politically liberal, and some of its liberation theologians were openly Marxist. Dissatisfied with these positions, many Catholics voted with their feet and joined the fast-growing Pentecostal churches. Liberation theologians argued that Pentecostals were successful because they were financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and other fronts for American imperialism. The theory was consistently laughed at by academic scholars of Latin American Pentecostalism. Finally, as the 20th century ended, voices were heard even in the liberation theology camp admitting that the analysis was wrong and that the most successful Pentecostal denominations in Latin America were indigenous and not significantly financed by U.S. agencies, some of them being in fact anti-American.

The dead horse of the “Rockefeller theory” is now revived by Valente and applied to China in the shape of a bizarre conspiracy theory. Valente is an intelligent journalist, and does not do it by chance. As Father Bernardo Cervellera, the best Catholic expert of China, explained in an interview to “Bitter Winter”, which probably also disturbed Valente, there is in the Catholic Church a faction insisting for a quick agreement with the CCP. At one stage, Cervellera explained, this faction started spreading fake news about an imminent signature of the agreement in order to put pressure on the CCP, and overcome the resistances that do exist within the Party as well. The CCP cares very much about its image abroad. Attempts to buy academics to support its persecution of the House Churches and the “xie jiao” (“heterodox teachings”: the current translation as “evil cults” is wrong) failed. Now Valente tells Beijing that, should the agreement be signed, the public relation problem might be solved. Vatican-connected journalists would be ready to justify the persecution by claiming that the persecuted are agents of the American imperialism.

Of course, this runs counter the teachings by Vatican II and of Valente’s own personal friend, Pope Francis, that religious liberty is indivisible and Catholics should protest when the freedom of any religion is threatened, not just theirs. Paris may have been worth a Mass once, but Beijing is not worth betraying millions of Christians arrested, tortured, and killed.

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