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It will be business as usual for the Church in China

HONG KONG (UCAN): A priest in China says that the timing of the agenda for the year of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, which was released on February 1, is extremely pertinent, as it comes hot on the heels of an article released by the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, speaking of breakthroughs in Vatican-Beijing talks on January 25 and 26.

The Milan-based paper mooted the possibility of limited freedom for the pope to select and name bishops for China, and even visit the mainland, but the priest notes that the agenda from Religious Affairs strongly reaffirms that it will be business as usual, stressing the absolute necessity of creating an independent Chinese Church.

The announcement also came just four days prior to the publication of an interview by Pope Francis on February 4, praising Chinese culture and wishing the Chinese people from the president, whom he named by name, down.

The priest said although the agenda for the Religious Affairs bureau this year is more or less the same as any other year, the self-election and self-ordination of bishops would not have been highlighted in the manner in which it is if there had really been any agreement reached in the Sino-Vatican talks.

Consequently, he said he believes there has not been any real progress in Sino-Vatican relations.

The newly-released agenda for the Religious Affairs bureau focusses on strengthening the legal construction of religious work, solving pressing problems in the religious sector, guiding members of the religious sector on how to strengthen the construction of their internal structures and giving positive guidance and service, as well as the development of external exchanges.

The document emphasises that during the coming year, the administration will continue its support for the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, as well as the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and both bodies are to continue to function according to the principle of an independent, self-organised Church.

The Religious Affairs agenda stresses the need to strengthen the organisational structure and development of talent and ability among religious personnel, maintain the practice of self-election and ordination of bishops, and solidify the foundation of an independent and self-organised Church.

It also highlights the role that the department will play in guiding the bishops’ conference and the Patriotic Association in conducting the ninth National Assembly of Catholic Representatives in China, at which office holders for the two organisations for the coming term will be elected.

Moreover, the government department says it will strengthen the internal construct of the Church by supporting representatives of the bishop’s conference and the Patriotic Association in conducting inspection tours of various dioceses.

Religious Affairs will continue to guide the operation of the National Seminary in Beijing in the formation of students taking the master’s programme as part of their preparation for priesthood.


It also plans to stretch its influence beyond the mainland border and publish a handbook on religious knowledge under the framework of One Belt, One Road in order to deepen the relationship among members of the religious sectors in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

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