A year has passed since the agreement signed in September 2018 between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which saw the end—at least on paper—of the schism between the so-called “patriotic” church, and the Vatican. Voices are being raised to denounce the growing restrictions of which Catholics are the victims in the Middle Kingdom.
The Vaticanist Gianni Valente, a lawyer working on the Sino-Vatican agreement signed a year ago, commented, with restraint: “the fact that the pope has the last word in the choice of bishops has changed the framework…the agreement is not miraculous and has not solved all the problems.” And he insists, “All Chinese bishops are recognized by Rome. This is revolutionary because, for seventy years, this is where the real problem lay” (La Croix, September 19, 2019).
Today the problem has shifted and concerns the sinisation of the Church in China desired by President Xi Jinping. It is about aligning the expression of the faith and Catholicism with “national traditions” steeped in socialism.
According to Gianni Valente, we should not worry too much. He assures us that, “in fact, the one in power is only concerned with matters of public order and ensure that the Catholic communities do not disturb it; he has little interest in purely ecclesial questions.”
Yet, over the months, the facts seem to belie the most optimistic comments, as has often been mentioned in FSSPX.News. The most recent element is the prohibition for anyone who has not yet reached the age of eighteen to visit a church. In the name of what principle of public order, if not the recruitment of youth in the purest communist tradition, is this done?
This prohibition against youth attending churches was introduced at the national level by the Chinese Communist Party a year ago. Unlike several other directives, this one tends to apply slowly but systematically throughout the territory, henceforth raising concern on the part of the clergy and the faithful.
When Communism Attacks Youth
People are speaking up and deploring the accelerated drying up in recent months of the number of servers for mass, raising long term fears about a possible negative impact on vocations to the priesthood.
On September 25, 2019 Ucanews was told by a source from a Manchu diocese who wishes to testify anonymously for fear of repression, that, “the Liaoning seminary is having trouble recruiting young men; no one is coming.”
It probably should be admitted that the decline in the number of entries to seminaries is not due solely to the 2018 agreement. A report from the Hong Kong-based Holy Ghost Studies Center points to the one-child policy as the main culprit of this difficult situation.
Nevertheless, on the contrary, the normalization between Beijing and the Vatican did nothing to stop this process. A member of the faithful from the diocese of Liaoning told Ucanews: “The government is gradually tightening its control over the Church, and now the restrictions are directly aimed against what is at the heart of the ecclesial community, vocations.” In the long run, these numerous obstacles to the free exercise of religion could jeopardize the future of the Catholic Church in China.
As for the Chinese bishops recognized by Rome, the question is how they confirm and encourage their faithful in the divine and Catholic faith. Between modernism and the Protestantization of the Church since Vatican II and atheism erected as a system, there is little room to maneuver.May the grace of Jesus Christ arouse true leaders, who will be able to say with St. Paul, “I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13).