The 10th National Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, the meeting of bodies controlled by the Communist Party of China (CCP) concluded on Saturday, August 20, 2022 in Wuhan, after conducting elections for key offices.
As reported by Asianews.it, Beijing Archbishop Joseph Li Shan has been elected president of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. The prelate, who will lead the body founded by Beijing to mark the autonomy of Chinese Catholicism, is 57 years old and was consecrated a bishop in 2007 with the consent of the Holy See.
Bishop Shen Bin of Haimen, Jiangtsu Province, will lead the Council of Chinese Bishops, the collegial body not recognized by the Holy See. Aged 52, “he already held the position of vice-president. He presented the assembly report on the Church activity in China over the past six years, without making any reference to the agreement with the Holy See, and gave the concluding speech.”
The National Assembly reiterated the rhetoric of patriotism and sinicization, as well as the need “to unite and guide the vast number of Catholics to be inspired by the thought of Xi Jinping.”
The appointments also include a new “Supervision Committee of the Two Supreme Organisms,” which will be headed by Msgr. Zhan Silu, Bishop of Xiapu, Fujiang Province, and in which appear the personalities most directly linked to the Chinese government authorities, whose role will have to be verified.
“As for the 57-year-old Bishop of Kunming Joseph Ma Yinglin - who has long been the best-known face of the Patriotic Association and is one of the bishops ordained illicitly and then readmitted to communion with Rome in 2018 - he now doesn't figure in the official organization chart, although he, like the outgoing president of the Patriotic Association, Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi, Shandong Province, has been assigned the position of 'honorary president'.”
“In the official communiqué, published on the Patriotic Association website following the Assembly conclusion, reports that the delegates discussed ‘the great project of transmitting the pastoral spirit, honoring the Lord and benefiting the people’ and ‘looked at the cause of patriotism and the brilliant prospects of deepening the Sinofication (sic) of Catholicism in our country.’”
“All of this with the usual nationalist rhetoric, the need ‘to unite and guide the vast number of Catholics to take Xi Jinping's thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era as their guide, to continue to hold high the banner of patriotism and love for religion, to adhere to the principles of independent self-management of the Church and democratic education, to adhere to the direction of the Chineseisation (sic) of Catholicism in the country, vigorously strengthening the construction of patriotic forces.”
These words should also be read in light of the unprecedented pressure recently denounced by the Hebei clergy over the forced membership of priests in the Patriotic Association.
“Reference is also made to the directives of the Party's Central Committee for the Catholic community in China, the same directives that in recent months have seen the entry into force of new regulations to ‘improving democratic control over religions,’ including a further tightening of online activities which are now completely forbidden without government authorization.”
In summary, the Sino-Vatican agreement has almost been invalidated by the measures of the Chinese government and the action of the Patriotic Association, but the Holy See persists in wanting to renew it.