CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Summit on religion mooted

HONG KONG (SE): The Communist Party of China is sending signals that it will intensify its control over the Catholic Church and other religions at a summit on religion that is expected to be held towards the end of this year.

It will be the first such gathering to take place since the current president, Xi Jinping, came to power in 2012.

UCAN reported that on October 8, the official party newspaper on religious issues, the Zhongguo Mingzu Bao, noted that Xi is serious about religion in the country.

Although the article does not specify any individual religions, it does allude to Church, clergy and dioceses, in an apparent reference to the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches.

For some months, priests in China have been expecting this summit would take pace before the end of the year.

The Hong Kong-based news agency says the article implies that Xi is seeking to minimise foreign influence on Chinese institutions, saying that all religions should be managed by organisations from within China.

“There is no need for certain groups and individuals outside China to worry about this,” the article says.

The article was posted on the newspaper’s social media site, with the headline referring to Xi by his nickname, Xi Dada.

“It is obvious that control on religions is to be tightened,” a priest, who identified himself as Father Peter, told UCAN. “It was theory and slogans in the past. Now it becomes a real game to play.”

Another priest said that Xi is emphasising traditional Chinese culture, but he is also interested in finding out as much as possible about the Church.

Consequently, the Religious Affairs Department has been interviewing people in responsible positions in dioceses and seminaries and gathering information, but it is not clear if it is to dispel fears of any threat to the government or simply to learn more about how the Church operates.

He noted that Xi keeps talking about a Church with Chinese characteristics, but it is not clear what he means by this.

Nevertheless, he said that in the future, we may see more classes on Chinese history and culture in seminaries, which he believes would not be a bad thing.

The priest said that he thinks that Xi feels threatened by some of the people around him, especially those that have been placed through the influence of Zhang Ziming, the former general secretary of the Communist Party from 1989 to 2002, who is still highly influential.

He explained that the summit on religion may be one exercise from which Xi can ascertain whether the Catholic and Christian Churches pose any threat to his position.

UCAN notes that the article in the Zhongguo Mingzu Bao cites Xi’s speech at the central United Front Work Department meeting in May.

The article says the president has stated clearly that all religions must adapt to socialist policy, saying it has been “a common principle for all religions to comply with” since Communist China was founded in 1949.

The Chinese government has established bodies similar to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association for each of the five recognised religions—Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism.

One Chinese bishop commented that the control exercised by the government over Church affairs through the Patriotic Association leaves parishes fairly free to operate, but makes it extremely difficult to run a diocese.

Some Church people expect more priests will be put forward for ordination as bishops later this year, be they illicit or approved by the Vatican remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, there is no expectation that there will be an outright persecution of the Church.

However, there is some worry that new rules will be set as a result of the summit, but it is anticipated that rather than being extremely strict, they will be irritating

 

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