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English Catholics criticise Vatican-China deal

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A group of English Catholics, including a long-serving MP, have signed a joint letter expressing “profound dismay” at the Vatican’s provisional agreement with Beijing.

Conservative MP Sir David Amess joined Irish former MEP Kathy Sinnott and Professor David Paton in criticising the Vatican for allowing the atheist Chinese government to have a role in choosing bishops at a time of increasing oppression.

“The Chinese authorities have also continued to harass, detain, or hold indefinitely and incommunicado certain leading Catholic clergy, including Bishops Guo and Shao in the last year,” the letter, published in this week’s Catholic Herald, says.

It adds that since the signing of the agreement, the Chinese government has destroyed two Marian shrines.

“All this illustrates the ominous precedent for the Sino-Vatican treaty: the Concordats with European totalitarian regimes in the early 20th century,” it says.

“Cardinal Zen has accused the Vatican of delivering its flock into the mouths of wolves,” the signatories conclude. “History’s judgement may be much harsher than that.”

AsiaNews reported on Monday that four priests from the underground Catholic Church had been taken into police custody for “indoctrination”.

The publication said that the priests were being “indoctrinated on the religious policy of the Chinese government … because they refuse to enroll in the Patriotic Association.”

Cardinal Zen, the former Bishop of Hong Kong, has previously said the agreement was a step towards to “annihilation” of the Church in China. While the exact terms of the agreement have not been announced, Zen expressed pessimism.

While the Pope can veto the appointment of a state-approved bishop, “how many times can he do that really?” Zen said.

Read the full letter below:

We the undersigned, are writing to express our profound dismay at the Holy See’s recently negotiated ‘provisional agreement’ with the People’s Republic of China.

Whilst the official wording of the agreement has not been released, all the indications are that the officially atheist Chinese Government has been given a role in choosing Catholic bishops. Far worse even than this however, under the presidency of Xi Xinping, China’s Catholics and other minority religious groups, notably the Muslim Uighurs, are enduring the harshest repression for many decades.

The U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China annual report has warned that China’s incarceration of one million Uighurs in Orwellian political re-education camps “may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity”.

The Chinese authorities have also continued to harass, detain, or hold indefinitely and incommunicado certain leading Catholic clergy, including Bishops Guo and Shao in the last year.

In May 2018, the state-imposed Bishops of the Government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) passed a five-year plan for the “sinicisation” of Catholicism in China, which means the compulsory conformity of Catholic Christianity to the Chinese Government’s political ideology.

Since 2017, churches in Henan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Liaoning and Hebei have been required to destroy banners and images with religious messages, fly the Chinese Communist flag, and sing the national anthem at services. Children have even been prohibited from going to church. In Henan alone, hundreds of Christians have been arrested and had Bibles confiscated, over 20 churches have been destroyed, and an estimated 100 crosses and other Christian symbols have been removed or destroyed.

In light of these human rights abuses, and the oppressive nature of Xi Jinping’s regime, it is no surprise to see the bad faith of the Chinese Government manifest in the recent destruction of two Catholic Marian Shrines in China since the signing of the agreement. All this illustrates the ominous precedent for the Sino-Vatican treaty: the Concordats with European totalitarian regimes in the early 20th century.

Cardinal Zen has accused the Vatican of delivering its flock into the mouths of wolves. History’s judgement may be much harsher than that.

Sir David Amess MP
Kathy Sinnott
Joanna Bogle DSG
Prof. David Paton
Dr. Joseph Shaw
Fr. David Palmer
Rev. Nicholas Donnelly
Peter D. Williams
Patrick Cusworth
Louise Doris
Catherine Lafferty
Richard McCarthy
Patricia Fordyce
James Preece