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Renewing the Beijing-Vatican deal

China and the Catholic Church recently announced that the 2018 deal to have a shared say in the appointment of bishops will be renewed for two more years in 2020.

“On Oct 22, China and the Vatican decided after friendly consultations to extend for two years the temporary agreement on the appointment of bishops.” stated Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. “The two sides will maintain close communication and consultation, and continue to push forward the process of improving relations.”

The Catholic Church normally appoints bishops by choosing men who are at least 35-years-old, have been ordained priests for at least five years and have a doctorate in Catholic theology. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the 2018 agreement of giving the Communist Party a say was “an attempt to close the schism in China’s 12-million-strong Catholic community.”

Further details of the deal remain hidden, except that all bishops had to join the CCPA and Catholic churches still loyal to the pope were unsanctioned.

In regard to religious affiliation, the Communist Party is officially atheistic. In 1951, when Communist China cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Chinese Catholics became legally mandated to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-run Catholic church. According to CNA and the Hong Kong Free Press, the government imprisons Catholic clergy who refuse to support the party and vets the sermons of priests, all of whom attend Communist government training courses. The government has also removed crosses from Christian churches.

“In China, religious education of any person under the age of 18 is illegal. This means that catechism classes have been closed and minors are not allowed to enter church buildings,” Catholic News Agency reported. “Catholic churches registered with the Chinese authorities are closely monitored via [China Central Television] cameras connected to the public security network.”

Recently, in order to align religious minority beliefs with socialist ideologies, the government has said it will make edits to the Bible and Qur’an. DailyMail reported Wang Yang, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and his officials claimed that these changes would protect the people of China from thoughts and ideas called “extreme” and “heretical.” 

“An educational curriculum written and distributed by government agencies even recast the Gospel of John to say that Christ claimed to be a sinner and was guilty of murder,” stated David Curry from USA Today.

“The Holy See considers the initial application of the Agreement, which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value, to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the Parties on the matters agreed upon,” stated the Vatican, “and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.” 

According to the South China Morning Post, the Holy See has experienced international pressure to withdraw.

“While some have hailed the Beijing-Vatican deal as a pragmatic compromise enabling dialogue between the two,” stated Hong Kong Free Press. “Others fear that China’s underground churches will become even more [marginalized].”