A group of influential Catholics has published an open letter to express their shock and disappointment about a report that the Vatican could soon reach a deal with the Chinese government. Source: Washington Post.
The Holy See has been in negotiations for several years with the Chinese Communist Party and is now believed to be close to an agreement over the appointment of bishops in China.
That agreement, under which responsibility for the appointment of bishops would probably be shared between the Vatican and the Chinese government, could pave the way for the eventual re-establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican, cut in 1951. The deal is also expected to confer Vatican recognition on seven state-appointed bishops, who had been excommunicated by previous popes.
But 15 leading Catholics, many of them from Hong Kong, have written to bishops all over the world arguing that the Chinese government should play no role in the selection of bishops. The group argued that the moral integrity of the seven “illicit” bishops was questionable.
“They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly,” they wrote. “If they were to be recognised as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.”
The letter's signatories include university professors, lecturers, researchers, human rights activists and lawyers. They warned that a deal with the Chinese government could do irreparable harm and that recent regulations put into effect this month allow for even greater government scrutiny over religion in China.
They complained that religious persecution has never stopped in China and warned that they could not see any possibility that it would, even if a deal were reached.
“We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power,” they wrote.
Senior Vatican officials argue that any deal would help Catholics in China practice and evangelise their faith.
Catholics warn of church schism if Vatican makes a deal with China (Washington Post)