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Home / World / China's impending deal with the Vatican is not an approximation

China's impending deal with the Vatican is not an approximation



Earlier this week, the Chinese government arrested a beloved Catholic bishop in an alleged attempt to keep him out of sight during the Easter holidays, just as an end to a decade-long split between Beijing and the Vatican could be in sight. 19659002] Bishop Guo Xijin is recognized by the Vatican, but not by the official Catholic Church in China, which is under state control. Such underground bishops are the heart of the split. Since the 1950s, the Chinese government has insisted on approving the bishops' selection, but the Vatican has secretly ordained the clergy, causing overlaps between official and subterranean bishops in some Chinese parishes

days before the Easter holidays after refusing to serve alongside a state-recognized bishop. The Vatican had asked the 59-year-old bishop to resign as a concession to Beijing. According to recent reports, Guo is no longer in detention, but was not allowed to return to his duties.

Negotiations between Beijing and the Holy See over the termination of the dueling birches and the unification of the Church are underway and an agreement is expected as early as the Easter weekend. But Guo's detention shows exactly what kind of solution the Chinese Communist Party intends. Probably it will not be so much a gentle approach to the Vatican, but rather a brutal crackdown on the Underground Church, which will be neutralized by the government once and for all.

For decades, the Communist Party State has tolerated the existence of a parallel system of official churches organized under government auspices, and unofficial or "underground" churches operating without government oversight. (This applies to both the Protestant and Catholic Churches in China.) While the Vatican deal concerns only the Catholic underground bishops, legal and bureaucratic changes are likely to put pressure on both the Protestant and Catholic underground churches.) Now he rejects Status quo and seeks to extend its control over these formerly independent communities.

On February 1

, new laws came into force that tightened state regulation of religion and imposed explicit restrictions on unofficial religious activities. A leaked directive of March 16 ordered local government agencies to begin investigating all subterranean Christian activities in Beijing, suggesting an imminent crackdown on these activities, as other sectors of Chinese society have experienced in recent years, the government reshuffle announced last week that religious affairs, previously delegated under the auspices of the Office of Religious Affairs, to a government office to the United Front Work Department, a Communist Party body under the direct control of the Central Committee of the party.

The party is in some ways suspicious of the Religious Affairs Bureau, fearing that some people in this agency might have an education that makes them open or sympathetic to various religious groups, "said Xi Lian, professor of world religions Duke Divinity School. "But now the United Front will take over and impose the iron will of the party."

China is governed by a dual, parallel structure of party and government organs at all levels, from the highest levels of power to the village committees. Government agencies tend to be more transparent than the party organs; The party is an informational hole. Above all, the United Front Work Department is the main means by which the party expands and consolidates its influence at every level of Chinese society.

There is little room for speculation about the implications of this step for the Catholic Church in China. It almost certainly means a more direct control of the party and marginalization for anyone who does not follow the party line.

"The purpose of administrative control over religious groups in China is to" deconstruct "an organization from its competitors, said Peter Wood, an analyst at the data mining company TextOre, which is researching the United Front." It's not about providing services – it's control, diversion, and deconfection. "

None of this bodes well for Chinese Christians, Lian said.

" It makes many Christians in China very nervous, "said Chloe Starr, a professor for Asian Christianity and Theology at Yale Divinity School. "Many lawyers had wanted a stronger transfer to the judiciary, rather than state supervision, but we moved in the opposite direction, resulting in it being further away from the trial and more directly under the influence of the party, which worries many Christians . "

A move to co-opt or even dissolve the Underground Church would suit Chinese President Xi Jinping has been conducting extensive campaigns in recent years to quell dissent and consolidate party control over every aspect of Chinese society. Xi has eliminated many of the gray areas that allowed a limited expression in the past. During his tenure, the party created a comprehensive Internet censorship regime, violated human rights lawyers, introduced ideological controls in universities and private companies, and established a high-tech surveillance state in the far west of Xinjiang.

The impending Vatican deal comes at a time when Beijing exercises more control over religious affairs than it has in decades. A possible agreement for such an agreement, which is under discussion, would allow the party to select bishops, but give the Vatican a right of veto in the final selection. But such a confession of foreign domination over internal affairs – and especially about the religion, which the party has always regarded with particular suspicion – would probably be an anathema to the party that has its current direction.

"Not only is trade a terrible one" The Vatican has chosen the worst time to do so – at a time when Xi Jinping will become the new emperor when the party collapses so hard, "Lian said," I really do hard to understand why the Vatican still clings to this utterly unrealistic hope of making a deal that benefits the Church and makes an agreement that will honor the Communist Party. "[196592002] Lian cited the example of Hong on Kong Agreement signed between Britain and China when the city was returned to the mainland after 150 years of British colonial rule stipulated that Beijing should allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong by 2017. However, China calls this agreement a historic document and not a binding agreement, and it has refused to allow elections in Hong Kong without first checking the candidates It is very unlikely that the Communist Party will now give the Vatican a real veto. More likely, even if some sort of veto power is given, all Beijing candidates will be fully audited. There is little reason to believe that the party would make any concessions to the Vatican, Lian said.

However, it is not always bad news. Even before Pope Francis, several popes had worked to end the stalemate, which has damaged the Church's membership and effectiveness in China. The existence of dueling bishops has created confusion and complication among Chinese Catholics, making it difficult for the Church to serve its hosts.

"The benefits of having a unified church in China would be a positive thing, and since I have a bishop in every lake that everyone recognizes, I can not see that this is anything but positive." said Starr. "The real pain lies in these structural adjustments to get to that point."

But the case of Guo Xijin is probably a foretaste of what an alleged deal on the ground will look like – arrests, imprisonment and forced affiliation with Beijing's line. In the future, Chinese Catholics can expect more, not less.

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