Rome: In China, Christianity is often suppressed by the communist-led government which maintains control over churches officially recognized by the state. These churches must have leadership that is approved and often appointed, by the government itself. Churches not “underground” are often controlled by the Chinese government in this way, installing government “cut-outs” that ensure the church doesn’t teach theology that is subversive to the communist regime. The Vatican just signed a provisional agreement with the Red Chinese government, allowing them to install seven bishops over the Roman Catholic church in China that were not previously approved or wanted by the Vatican.
The talks between China and Beijing have been ongoing for decades. With more than 12 million Roman Catholics in China, Beijing and the Vatican split relations in 1951 after the Communists won the Chinese civil war. At the time, Beijing demanded it have oversight and approval over bishops approved in the Chinese church, and the Vatican resisted their demands. Today’s agreement with the Chinese marks the first time that a Bishop of Rome has surrendered control of the bishop selection process to the Chinese government. After a nearly 70-year stand-off, the Red Chinese got everything they asked for and the Vatican capitulated wholesale.
In a statement, the Vatican said, “Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics.”
Part of the reason that no previous Pope has made such an agreement with the Chinese government has been for the protection of bishops already installed in the so-called “underground church.” Experts believe that these bishops may face punitive consequences or prosecution now that state-appointed bishops have been approved. For many Romanists who have remained faithful to Vatican during the last 70 years of persecution, they consider the agreement a stab in the back.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, a Chinese Catholic in Hong Kong, wrote on his blog that this move amounts to selling out the Chinese Catholics who refused to join the state church and suffered persecution, writing, “What is the message this communique conveys to the faithful in China? ‘Trust us! Accept the agreement! Obey us! We are in agreement with your pope!’”
It is no secret that Communism has remained a steady opponent of theism, wherever present. The Roman Church has traditionally recognized this, and Pope John Paul II was a strong opponent of communism. Pope Francis, on the other hand – of the Jesuit priestly order – has a thoroughly Marxist worldview as influenced by Jesuit Liberation Theology in his native South America. The Roman Catholic Church has always wed political and religious power, and in the move to allow the Chinese government oversight over the appointment of bishops, the Romanists have further broadened their appeal for political power worldwide.