China To Ensure That Catholic Leadership Is In Beijing’s Control

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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A high-ranking party official told Catholics in China that Beijing will enforce the loyalty of Church leadership to the state.

The Chinese Communist Party’s leader in charge of regulating religion, Yu Zhengsheng, addressed a crowd of 100 Catholic leaders July 19, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), according to Crux. Zhengsheng told leaders that Beijing would ensure that Church leadership positions would be filled only by individuals loyal to the state, and that leaders must endeavor to make their religion conform to Chinese culture.

Zehngsheng commanded members of the Chinese Catholic church “to ensure that the leadership of the Chinese Catholic Church is held firmly in the hands of those who love the nation and the religion,” according to UCA News. Zhengsheng added that church leaders should implement with self-awareness the basic direction of religious works,” and “always to insist on the direction of Sinicization [to make Chinese in form or character] of religion,” according to Crux.

Some church leaders in attendance showed quiet signs of resistance to the Communist Party’s grip on the church and to the state’s control of the CCPA. Vatican-approved bishops refused to wear their bishops’ frock to show that they did not consider the speech a church event. China and the Vatican have fought for years over who has the authority to appoint church leadership, and China has tried to coerce Vatican-appointed bishops to join the CCPA as a power grab against the Vatican. The bishops that silently protested the July 19 speech did so as members of the CCPA.

The Vatican refuses to recognize the CCPA, the National Congress of Catholic Representatives, or the bishops’ conference as official church bodies, on the grounds that they answer to the Chinese government and that their policies contradict church doctrine. The founding of the CCPA in 1957 caused a rift between China’s 10 million Catholics, some of whom, like the underground church, refused to join or recognize it, while others bent the knee to the state.

The Vatican and Beijing currently continue negotiations concerning the process for official appointment of bishops to the church.

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