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Chinese official decries foreign religious meddling

HONG KONG (UCAN): Wang Zuo’an, deputy minister of the Chinese government’s United Front Work Department, published a signed commentary dealing with so-called Sinicisation of the Catholic Church and other religious groups on March 26.
Writing in the state-run Zhongguo Minzu Bao newspaper, he insisted there must be Communist Party leadership in relation to religious practice taking into account “geopolitical” factors.
Wang, who is also director of the country’s National Religious Affairs Administration, said Sinicisation sought to turn “religions in China” into “religions of China.”
Regarding Catholicism, Wang focused on the official requirement for the Church in China to be autonomous from foreign powers in order to allow for “self-electing” of bishops and converting “underground forces” into being loyal to the state.
Wang Meixiu, a professor and retired researcher on Catholic studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said, “It shows that the government has kept its policies unchanged after signing the September 2018 provisional agreement on bishops’ appointments with the Vatican.”
The agreement allows the official Chinese side to select bishop candidates, with the Vatican only having a veto power.
There has since been considerable debate as to whether the Vatican cleverly used the deal to clear the way for future growth of Catholicism in China or naïvely gave too much control of Church affairs to the Communist Party.
Pope Francis, when calling for Catholics from the official and unofficial Churches to reconcile, conceded that the agreement may have caused confusion.
Wang said the timing of the latest official commentary warranted attention because it coincided with celebrations by national and provincial administrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling communist regime.
He said that the commentary hinted at a steady but less progressive approach to the imposition of controls on religious organisations.
He added that while reminding the religious sector of the requirement to accept party leadership, it also advised relevant government departments that Sinicisation required a long-term effort and would not be achieved overnight.
The Communist Party sees Sinicisation as incorporating both nationalism and Chinese cultural characteristics in areas ranging from architecture to sacred music and liturgy.
One Catholic, named John, believed that the communist regime continues to see the unofficial church Community as an enemy and regards the Vatican as a foreign power without directly naming it.
He said that having real authority to freely carry out pastoral activities was more in “Rome’s imagination” than reflective of current realities in China.

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