Vatican-China Bishop-appointment deal concerns

Chinese Catholics who belong to the country’s underground churches are worried.

They think the Vatican and Chinese government’s plan to sign an agreement about appointing bishops will mean legitimate bishops will have to step down in favour of state-appointed ones.

The agreement, which is only “a few months” away, would allow the Vatican to help appoint bishops in China.

At the same time, Chinese authorities will be given more control over the country’s underground churches.

These underground churches, which offer an alternative to state-sanctioned churches approved by Beijing, recognise only the Vatican’s authority.

The Beijing-approved state churches refuse to accept the Pope’s authority.

Chinese Catholics are concerned about the future of seven “illicit” government-backed Chinese bishops. At present, these bishops are not recognised by the Holy See and have been excommunicated.

Two bishops in Shantou and Mindong dioceses, who have been recognised by the Holy See have been asked to make way for illicit ones.

“We know that China and Vatican have been actively engaged in a dialogue, but we never expected that legitimate bishops would be asked to step down,” says a Chinese Catholic who refuses to be named.

She says in exchange for the agreement signed by the Holy See with the government, “the underground community needs to be sanctified.”

“Our faith tells us that God so loved the world that everything was best arranged by Him and He can bring good from evil, but now what is our future?

“Where is the church? And who is the shepherd? It is a burden for Catholics to have the game of politics imposed on them.”

The woman says the Holy See’s decision will make many Catholics leave the church as they “have no choice but to obey”.

An underground priest has also expressed concern. He says it’s a mistake for the Holy See to assume it can achieve unity by supporting the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

It’s “… like asking the underground church to take communion with the devil”. He says the underground church feels abandoned and betrayed.

Another underground Catholic says he thinks the Holy See is in a united front with China’s communist government.

Father John of Yunnan says the Holy See is in a hurry to establish relations with Chinese authorities.

With the Holy See being “blessed and generous to bishops of the association but not to bishops of underground churches,” he says it’s obvious underground bishops will transfer to open churches.

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