Chinese priests wary of new agreement between Vatican and China
Closer ties between the Vatican and Beijing authorities are viewed with skepticism by many Chinese Catholic priests who, for the past 60 years, have been split between those who remain loyal to the Pope and others who are under the control of the Chinese authorities.
Chinese clergy fear that in the interest of maintaining good relations, the Vatican will accept a communist stranglehold over China’s Catholics. Among the main opponents of the recent agreement is the respected Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who believes the agreement risks abandoning those believers who are loyal to the Vatican and amounts to a deal with the devil which will give the Communist control of the Church.
“Communism is a terrible totalitarian regime and people who haven’t experienced that find it difficult to understand that,” Zen said. He added that Pope Francis “wants to make peace with everybody, that’s very good, but sometimes I think the reality is cruel”.
Vatican authorities “say they hope that by this agreement, the people may live their faith peacefully,” Zen said. “But if there is no freedom, there is no peace.”
Zen called the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) members “puppets of the government” who have profited from their positions. CPCA is an association established in 1957 by the People’s Republic of China’s Religious Affairs Bureau to exercise state supervision over mainland China’s Catholics. In 1958, Pope Pius XII deplored the attitude and activities of the Association and declared that bishops who participated in consecrating new bishops selected by CPCA would be excommunicated
If the Vatican recognised CPCA, Zen fears Beijing could feel emboldened to “eliminate” the underground church, whose members would be left “desperate”.
Francesco Sisci, a researcher at Renmin University, has been following the situation between China and the Vatican for decades. He believes that the split in the Catholic church in China is not just political but is also part of a power struggle. “The Catholic church is split between factions that hate each other,” he said. “In the same area, you have two bishops rivalling for power, for money.”