Spanish – In October, the Vatican must decide whether to renew the agreement with China, a pact that allows the government led by the single party, the Communist Party, to elect the nation’s bishops. However, the Trump administration warns that giving the regime such power could endanger China’s Catholics. It could increase religious persecution.
“China is one of the fastest-growing churches in the world,” Ambassador Sam Brownback, a Roman Catholic and the State Department’s lead envoy for international religious freedom, told the Washington Examiner. “The Vatican is a certain percentage of that, and most of it is Protestants. I think they would like to get their structure in place in China, in a country where it’s one of the fastest-growing churches in the world,” he added.
Pope Francis’ negotiations with China over the role of the Roman Catholic Church in that country risk putting underground Roman Catholics to intensified oppression by Beijing, according to the senior U.S. official. He believes that this agreement gives the Communist Party “control” over the church.
US: Vatican talks with China could expose Catholics to additional persecution https://t.co/8n2bmQBIfx
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) October 1, 2020
“Beijing will market [the agreement] as saying they are acceptable in how they treat their religious,” said Brownback. “And that is part of our concern, is that the Communist Party in China has been horrible and they have gotten worse. It has not gotten better, and then how this will be marketed by the Chinese government.”
Catholics fear the creation of an official registry
For proponents of the agreement, it is a step toward allowing the Catholic Church to operate openly in China. In return, Chinese officials get “the official registration of all Catholic bishops, priests and communities, including those of the so-called underground community,” according to the Jesuit publication America Magazine.
This has led an estimated five million Catholics to practice their faith clandestinely. They worship in secret, for fear that the Chinese authorities will use the registry as a blacklist.
“A number of people in the underground church are concerned about that very aspect, and they have got good grounds to be,” Brownback said, asserting that Chinese authorities have previously arrested protestants after obtaining information about church members.
Cardinal Zen: return to the catacombs
Members of the church hierarchy have already called the Catholics of China to return to the catacombs, just as the first Christians of humanity did. Cardinal Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, who suffered persecution and was interned in a forced labor camp, announced: “The underground church is the legitimate church.”
“They are not going to elect good bishops for us,” Zen said in 2018 (when the agreement was originally made).
However, it is worth noting that today, the most persecuted group is the Uyghur Muslims. In fact, about one million are interned in labor camps, where forced sterilization is common.
Financing repression by enriching the Chinese Communist Party
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been the U.S. official most critical of the Chinese communist regime and religious persecution. On the occasion of the Vatican summit on religious freedom, Pompeo attempted to bring the Holy See into the fight against China. But Pope Francis refused to meet with him, claiming that he does not intervene in presidential elections.
For his part, Brownback seeks to raise awareness about the complicity of those who have political and trade agreements with China, as is the case with many Western countries. He believes they enrich the Chinese Communist Party, which persecutes its own citizens and wages a cold war against the United States.