Chinese Catholic bishop willing to stand down

A Chinese Catholic bishop, Guo Xijin, says he will step down in favour of Communist-approved bishops.

Guo is one of the “underground” bishops — recognized by the Church but not by Chinese authorities — who have been asked by the Vatican to step down. He will be replaced by a Communist-approved bishop.

Guo currently lives under police surveillance and has been detained by Chinese authorities on a number of occasions.

His agreement to obey the Vatican’s request supports a deal the Vatican and the Chinese government are forging at present.

The deal would allow the Vatican to help appoint bishops in China, while Chinese authorities will be given more control over the country’s underground churches. Several Vatican-appointed Chinese Catholic bishops will be asked to step down as part of the deal, while bishops approved by the Chinese government will take their places.

The deal could heal a nearly 70-year rift between the two sides and give the Vatican a say in who runs the church in China.

“Our consistent stand is to respect the deal made between the Vatican and the Chinese government,” Guo says.

“Our principle is that the Chinese Catholic Church must have a connection with the Vatican; the connection cannot be severed.”

Guo has concerns about the Vatican-China deal, however. He says he has “sensed an unwillingness to let the Vatican have the final say over Catholic spiritual life.

“The Chinese government doesn’t say explicitly that we need to disconnect from Rome. But when the authorities speak of a Chinese church that is run independently, in some circumstances it has such an implication.”

Under President Xi Xinping, the authorities have demolished a number of churches, reflecting the government’s fear that Christianity is a Western influence it cannot control and a threat to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.

The government has tried to break the underground Catholic church for decades.

When China set up the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Organization in 1957 and began appointing bishops, many Catholics refused to attend their services or those of the priests they appointed.

About half of the estimated 10 million to 12 million Catholics in the country worship in the underground church.


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