Vatican–China Commission Will Select Bishops, Says Pope Francis

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
September 5, 2023Chinashare
Vatican–China Commission Will Select Bishops, Says Pope Francis
Pope Francis attends a meeting with charity workers and the inauguration of the House of Mercy in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on Sept. 4, 2023. (Andrew Medichini/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Pope Francis announced that the Vatican has set up a joint commission with the Chinese communist regime for appointing bishops to China’s Catholic churches.

The Vatican’s relations with China are “very respectful,” Pope Francis told journalists on Sept. 4, according to Catholic News Agency. “There is a commission working for the appointment of bishops—Chinese government and the Vatican—and there has been dialogue for some time.” The “friendly” commission is “doing a fine job. Relations are like this; let’s say that they are underway. And I have great respect for the Chinese people.”

The commission is being presided over by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“I think that we need to advance further into the religious aspect to understand each other more. The Chinese must not think that the Church does not accept their culture and their values and that the Church is dependent on a foreign power,” the pope said.

The Vatican and China have engaged in foreign exchanges, which the pope cited as an indication of “openness” from the Chinese.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has insisted that the right to appoint all bishops to the Roman Catholic Church on the mainland should be within the party’s control.

The CCP also set up the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) to represent Catholics in the country. However, the Vatican had rejected such arrangements.

But in 2018, China and the Vatican entered into a provisional agreement on the issue of appointing bishops, the content of which has not yet been made public. The Vatican has only stated that the deal was related to a “consensual decision” on the appointments.

In July, the Vatican announced it would accept Beijing’s unilateral appointment of Bishop Shen Bin in Shanghai, formally recognizing the CCP’s installation of the bishop three months after the fact. The Vatican only learned about the appointment through the media.

The transfer was made “without the involvement of the Holy See,” Cardinal Parolin said at the time, a move that “does not seem to take into account the spirit of dialogue and collaboration established between the Vatican and the Chinese sides over the years.”

CCP Controls Catholic Church in China

A 2021 report by Bitter Winter points out that Beijing had already removed any role of the pope or the Vatican in appointing bishops that year.

“There is no mention of the Vatican or the Pope, which in theory should appoint the bishops under the Vatican-China deal of 2018, renewed in 2020,” the journal stated.

According to Beijing’s “Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy” policy, which went into effect in May 2021, Catholics were told that bishops in China should be elected through the CPAC, according to Bitter Winter.

Chinese Christians pray during a Christmas Mass at a Catholic Church in Beijing on Dec. 24, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Despite the CCP taking away the Vatican’s power to appoint bishops, it has largely remained silent on the issue. Furthermore, critics have accused Pope Francis of turning a blind eye to the CCP’s human rights abuses.

In an Aug. 6 article published by the National Review, Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out that the Chinese regime was implementing surveillance technology in churches that were linked to an artificial intelligence system of rewards and punishments.

This is aimed at helping the CPCA ensure compliance of the churches with its Sinicization agenda—a policy under which religions are forced to adopt Chinese communist ideologies.

“And yet Cardinal Parolin maintains, implausibly, that Sinicization is simply inculturation, the missionary practice of adopting local etiquette and art and integrating them into Catholic culture,” Ms. Shea writes.

“China’s religions face the worst repression since Mao. The Parolin policy of covering up this fact and quietly ceding papal authority to Caesar will not preserve the Catholic Church in China.”

Religious Persecution in China

In addition to Sinicization, the CCP has committed several vicious crimes against religious believers in the nation.

In May, Nury Turkel, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told The Epoch Times’s sister media outlet NTD that “instead of making improvements in the Chinese government’s treatment of people of faith, people of belief, they have been ratcheting up and turning this regime into a genocidal regime.”

“They have been ruthlessly persecuting religious groups, including the Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, [and] Falun Gong practitioners,” Mr. Turkel said, adding that the human rights situation and religious freedom situation in the country has “significantly deteriorated” since 2022.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and teaches a set of slow-moving meditative exercises. It was estimated that the practice had attracted between 70 million and 100 million people before the CCP, led by then-party head Jiang Zemin, launched a persecution campaign against it in 1999. The CCP had initially supported the practice, but eventually deemed its popularity intolerable, viewing it as a threat to the regime’s control over society.

Falun Gong practitioners
Falun Gong practitioners participate in a parade to call for an end to the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of their faith in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., on April 23, 2023. (Chung I Ho/The Epoch Times)

“The Chinese government publicly openly labels people of faith into some sort of people who have a mental illness, who were affected with thought viruses,” he said.

In a Feb. 13 report, U.S.-based nongovernmental organization ChinaAid stated that Beijing had ramped up persecution of Christians in 2022, including the suppression of churches.

The process of Sinicization is evolving from “supporting the CCP” to the “worship and allegiance to Xi Jinping,” the report stated.

The CCP is reportedly involved in the forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience. In a recent interview with The Epoch Times, Dr. Zheng Zhi revealed the horror of taking part in such an extraction process.

He said he was taken on a “secret military mission” near a prison in northeastern China. Only after reaching the place did Dr. Zheng realize that he was expected to aid in extracting the organs of a young man who was no more than 18 years old.

“It was horrifying beyond words. He was looking right at me. His eyelids were moving. He was alive,” Dr. Zhi said.

In 2019, a London-based independent tribunal concluded that the CCP killed prisoners for their organs “on a significant scale,” with the prisoners primarily being Falun Gong practitioners.

Eva Fu contributed to the report.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.