Critics question deal with the atheist, authoritarian Chinese government

Critics are questioning the church’s decision to join forces with the atheist, authoritarian Chinese government.

Under a provisional agreement, the Vatican will recognise the legitimacy of bishops appointed by Beijing.

The deal comes at a time when the ruling Communist Party is cracking down on “illegal” Christian groups in the country.

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon is concerned about the effect the agreement will have on freedom of religion in China in the future.

“Such an agreement will effectively set a very bad precedent for other religions (in China) … It will put Catholics under a lot of pressure,” he says.

Although Chinese state media supports the proposal and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China say they “wholeheartedly supported” the deal, others don’t paint so positive a picture.

Father Bernardo Cervellera says the reaction had been more muted among Chinese Catholics.

“There is on one hand a little bit of joy, because something is happening, there is a provisional agreement, but there is a lot of sadness because many problems remain open, above all the fact that many bishops have been disappeared at the hands of the police,” he says.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong says the agreement is an “incredible betrayal.”

He is accusing the Vatican of “giving the flock into the mouths of the wolves.”

He believes the agreement will result in “spiritual suffering” in China’s underground church.

“They fear that the Holy See is betraying the faith and that they want them to join this betrayal,” he says.

He also fears the Vatican will abandon official ties with Taiwan now the agreement has been signed, as Beijing demands any country that has relations with China must forfeit recognition of self-ruling Taiwan, which it sees as part of its territory to be reunified.

“I’m afraid the people in Taiwan may not understand because it looks like a betrayal of a friend.”

Taiwan officials say the Vatican has assured them the agreement will not affect diplomatic ties as Beijing makes a concerted effort to poach their dwindling allies.


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