China: Regime Has Seminaries in Its Sights

Source: FSSPX News

Several Chinese bishops want to align the teaching given in seminaries with the sinicization of religion policy implemented by President Xi Jinping. The new textbooks, which are supposed to integrate the teaching of communism into the corpus of Christian doctrine, have just been presented at a summer meeting held in the east of the country.

By “sinicization” of religion, they mean the policy conceived at the highest level of the state apparatus to impose on Christianity the fundamental concepts of socialism as well as the autonomy of a Chinese Church supposed to depend only on the Communist Party.

First implemented by party officials, it is now Chinese Catholic bishops who are encouraging this sinicization of Catholicism: proof is found in the meeting which took place from July 28 to 30, 2023 in Pingliang, in the East of the country.

A meeting organized jointly by the Patriotic Association of Catholics of China and the conference of bishops of the country, in which participated Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, chairman of the CCPA, as well as Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Chegde, and Bishop Li Hui, Deputy secretary-general of the BCCCC and head of the Seminary Department,. Bishop Guo explicitly urged participants to adhere to the policy of sinicization desired by Xi Jinping.

The Patriotic Association of Catholics of China and the Conference of Chinese Bishops are both attached to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and are not recognized by the Church. This is a good part of the ambiguity of the Sino-Vatican agreement, which recognizes bishops who fully identify with communism.

Bishop Guo is not unknown: ordained bishop without papal mandate, the prelate incurred the excommunication reserved for this offense. In the wake of the 2018 provisional agreement between the Holy See and China, his sanction was lifted by Rome, which then recognized him as Bishop of Chengde.

In 2021, Bishop Guo ordained three priests in a diocese not recognized by the Vatican, illustrating the regular hitches to the 2018 agreement. “each seminary should adhere to the direction of the Sinization of Catholicism in my country,” he said notably at the Pingliang meeting.

For the archbishop of Beijing, it is time for the Church in China to pass to “a new era of development,” thanks to the study programs and the seminary manuals which have just been concocted by the CCP and which must become the basis of teaching in all houses of religious formation.

"The Catholic faith in China has a solid foundation thanks to the hard work of the older generation of priests and the efforts of the new generation of seminary educators,” added the prelate who also praised “the attention and support of successive governments at all levels from which the Church has been able to benefit.”

Behind the ready-made formulas, one can understand that it is a question of accelerating the recycling of the Chinese clergy and making disappear all that could, directly or indirectly, recall the underground Church whose existence is more than ever threatened under the Xi Jinping era. And purely and simply to submit Chinese Catholics, including the clergy, to the CCP. Is this the purpose of the Sino-Vatican agreement?

Bishop Joseph Li nevertheless recognized the “numerous difficulties” encountered in the drafting of the new manuals: making Mao’s little red book a living image of the Gospels and the social doctrine of the Church is indeed not easy.