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Bp. Shen Bin with the visiting Chinese authorities.Diocese of Shanghai screenshot

SHANGHAI, China (LifeSiteNews) — Following its appointment of a diocesan bishop against the Vatican’s wishes, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has conducted an official visit to ensure that the bishop is implementing state policies. 

UCA News reported May 10 that local officials from the CCP had made a visit to Bishop Shen Bin of the Diocese of Shanghai, in order to “study the local church’s progress on the implementation of socialist policies.” 

The CCP’s visit took place on May 8 when three officials from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) visited the diocese, their official purpose being to inaugurate a new workshop building. In reality, the visit was chiefly an opportunity for the CCP officials to ensure that the diocesan authorities were correctly effecting the “Chineseization (Sinicization) of religion.” 

The diocese is recognized by the Holy See, but Shen is not the Vatican-approved bishop of Shanghai. The Vatican-recognized bishop of Shanghai is actually Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin whereas Shen is merely the Vatican-approved bishop of Haimen. 

Nevertheless, the CCP recently installed Shen as the ordinary of Shanghai diocese. 

READ: Leading Vatican diplomat says China deal the result of decades work but ‘not the best’

Details of the various speeches can be found in a statement released by the diocese. Qian Feng – the vice chairman of  the CPPCC’s Shanghai Municipal Committee  – praised the Catholic role in the “economic and social development of Shanghai.” He added that CPPCC members would “raise their political status, study the spirit of the 20th CPC National Congress, the spirit of the Central United Front Work Conference, and the spirit of the National Religious Work Conference. “

The Communist official also urged that attendees “adhere to the direction of Chineseization of religion and actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society.” 

Themes of “unity and democracy” were similarly highlighted, as Qian encouraged those present to “advance into a new journey and build a new era, and build consensus and gather strength for the high-quality development of Shanghai’s economy, society, and various undertakings.”

Also present at the event, were fellow CPPCC officials: Min Satellite, the CPPCC director of the Committee of Ethnicity and Religion; Yu Xiufen, the director of the CPPCC Committee of Sectional and Regional Work; and Xu Mei, the full-time deputy director of the CPPCC Committee of Ethnicity and Religion.

Bishop Shen is a loyal supporter of the government-approved church in China, otherwise known as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). He is also a member of the CPPCC’s Standing Committee and serves both as vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and as president of the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference. As such, Shen is a signed up member of the state-approved clergy.

Such loyalties were reflected in his own speech on May 8, as he urged Shanghai Catholics to “firstly, identify politically, adhere to the leadership of the [Communist] Party, reflect political requirements in the process of performing their duties, consider the effect of rectification, and keep the political bottom line.”

A second priority, added Shen, was that Catholics in his diocese should “bring into play the positive factors in Catholic culture, unite and coalesce the majority of the religious, serve the Church and integrate into society, and contribute to the economic and social development of Shanghai and the healthy and stable development of the Catholic Church in Shanghai.”

The visit is a notable one as it comes one month after Shen was moved to the Diocese of Shanghai by the CCP. As noted above, the local bishop recognized by the Vatican is Thaddeus Ma Daqin. He had been appointed to the see as its auxiliary in 2012, with the CCP believing him to be loyal to them. However, after his consecration he denounced and left the state-approved church and was subsequently sequestered to house arrest in a nearby seminary. 

READ: Chinese Communists blindside Vatican by appointing new bishop without its involvement

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We ask you to join us in thanking this faithful shepherd for his years of loving service to Christ and His Church. 

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, RI, known for his outspoken defense of the Church’s moral teachings on the sanctity of life, marriage, and human sexuality, has just resigned upon reaching the age of 75 on April 1.

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Here is our message to Bishop Tobin which you can sign: 

In a statement to the diocese on the occasion of his resignation, Bishop Tobin thanked the faithful and clergy of Providence for their support over the years, encouraging them to remain steadfast in the faith. “I urge all the members of the church to remain steadfast in your faith, to be proud of the good work you are doing, and to be determined to carry on the work that Jesus has entrusted to you,” Tobin said. 

As bishop, Tobin consistently raised his voice to clearly reiterate the perennial teachings of the Church that the life of the unborn is sacred, marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and the innocence of children must be protected in society.

He has also defended traditional Catholics who wish to worship according to the Church’s ancient liturgy in the Tridentine Latin Mass. 

Unafraid to hold to account so-called “Catholic” politicians who aggressively promote abortion and oppose the protection of the lives of the unborn, in 2019 Tobin excoriated Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, who says he is Catholic but voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act, designed to protect children born alive during botched abortions from being left to die.   

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Tobin called out the contradiction between a politician calling himself Catholic and yet rejecting Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. In a tweet sent out on May 7, 2020, Tobin said one cannot be an “authentic” Catholic and hold a pro-abortion position. 

“Just saw a headline in a Catholic newspaper with the phrase ‘pro-abortion Catholic.’ Sorry. That’s a contradiction in terms. You can’t be a Catholic, at least not an authentic one, and be ‘pro-abortion.’ Or ‘pro-choice.’ It’s the same thing,” the bishop said

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Several months later Tobin again sparked a heated Twitter debate over what constitutes a Catholic when he sarcastically implied that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden isn’t one. The outspoken bishop was hammered on Twitter with ad hominem attacks after he posted the following:  

Biden-Harris. First time in a while that the Democratic ticket hasn’t had a Catholic on it. Sad. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) August 11, 2020 

Tobin doubled down on his criticisms of President Biden’s zeal for abortion in 2022, when he stated that he could not be “both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot”: 

President Biden cannot be both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot. The two are mutually exclusive. He is a poor, lost and confused soul. Truly, we need to pray for him, everyday. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) September 23, 2022 

Tobin’s courageous defense of the Church’s moral teachings was not limited, however, to standing up against the prominent pro-abortion advocates of the Left. He also earned their hatred with his public stance against LGBT ideology and intimidation. 

On June 1, 2019, to mark the beginning of so-called “pride month”, the Rhode Island bishop tweeted that Catholics should not take part in “pride” events due to their conflict with the Catholic faith, making special note of the danger to children: 

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) June 1, 2019 

The public stance made the bishop the target of high-volume vitriol from LGBT adherents and supporters, who moved swiftly to squash the Catholic shepherd’s advisory to his flock to remain faithful to “Catholic faith and morals,” demonstrating the resolve of anti-Catholic forces to silence Church teaching. 

Several days later, Tobin issued the following statement, declaring it his obligation as a bishop to preach the truth of Christ “even on very difficult and sensitive issues”, affirming that he would continue to do so. He stated, “As a Catholic Bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues.  That is what I have always tried to do – on a variety of issues – and I will continue doing so as contemporary issues arise.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Ever sensitive to the needs of the flock entrusted to this care, Tobin also supported those Catholics devoted to the ancient liturgy in the Traditional Latin Mass. In January 2022, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he encouraged “respect and support” for “members of our own Church who are devoted to [the] TLM,” affirming their fidelity to the Church, a notable public defense in the face of attacks from authorities in Rome, such as Cardinal Roche, who has dubbed those who love the ancient Mass “more Protestant than Catholic.”  

In contrast, Bishop Tobin wrote: 

In this Week of Prayer for #ChristianUnity, let’s also work to safeguard and promote “Catholic Unity.” In particular, let’s resolve to respect and support members of our own Church who are devoted to TLM. They are faithful Catholics who greatly love the Lord and his Church. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) January 18, 2022 

Again, earlier this year, Tobin criticized the increased ostracization of traditional Catholics by Rome in a tweet that contrasted the heavy-handedness of the Vatican’s restrictions with the Pope’s call for accompaniment and listening. The prelate wrote,  

The way the Vatican is dealing with the Traditional Latin Mass does not seem to me to be the “style of God.” Pope Francis himself has emphasized that those who are attached to the TLM should be “accompanied listened to, and given time.” 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) February 21, 2023 

With the courageous Bishop of Providence now retiring, the sentiments of Catholics grateful for his defense of life, family, and faith can perhaps not be put better than what was stated by those same Catholics several years ago: “Your clear and compassionate teaching gives hope to Catholics and Christians everywhere.”  

In the words of Bishop Strickland, “Thanks for speaking up Bishop Tobin….let us be mighty loving messengers of truth and light in Jesus Christ.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church


Bishop Thomas Tobin retires at age 75 - LifeSiteNews

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On April 4 this year, Shen was then installed as bishop of the diocese by the CCP, with the Vatican only being “informed” of the event a “few days” prior to the installation ceremony. The Holy See Press Office stated that it had learnt of Shen’s official installation through local media. 

The Vatican’s spokesman did not comment further on the Holy See’s reaction to Shen’s installation. However, the visit of the Chinese authorities to his new diocese of Shanghai will likely be another signal to the Vatican of Beijing’s growing control over the direction of the Chinese church.

This is not the first time that Beijing has openly reneged on the Vatican’s deal. In November 2022, the CCP appointed Bishop John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi. The diocese is not recognized by the Holy See, and in a subsequent statement the Vatican declared that it learnt of the ceremony with “surprise and regret.” 

Peng’s installation ceremony “did not take place in accordance with the spirit of dialogue that exists between the Vatican and Chinese sides and what was stipulated in the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops, Sept. 22, 2018,” wrote the Vatican. 

READ: Pope Francis’ deal with Communist China has led to greater persecution of Catholics

At the time, the Holy See continued by issuing an appearance of subjugation to the CCP authorities, expressing a wish “that similar episodes will not be repeated,” and adding the Vatican “remains awaiting appropriate communications on the matter from the Authorities, and reaffirms its full readiness to continue respectful dialogue concerning all matters of common interest.”

Having been renewed twice since its inception in 2018, the secretive Sino-Vatican deal’s specific details remain undisclosed: a peculiar air of mystery surrounds them. China expert Steven Mosher described the deal as an action which was “perhaps the most controversial of a papacy dogged by controversy.”

The agreement is believed to recognize the state-approved version of the Catholic Church and allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to appoint bishops. The Pope apparently maintains a veto power although in practice it is the CCP that has control. It also allegedly allows for the removal and replacement of legitimate bishops by CCP-approved bishops.

The deal seems to have led to a heightened increase in the religious persecution since it was signed. Indeed, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China described the abuse as a direct consequence of the deal. In its 2020 report, the Commission wrote that the persecution witnessed is “of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”

With the developments of recent weeks and months, Beijing appears to be displaying a an escalation of control over Catholics, leaving the Holy See out of decisions.