VATICAN CITY, March 20, 2019, LifeSiteNews — Despite entering into a controversial, lopsided agreement with the Vatican last September in which China gained greater control over the Chinese Catholic Church, President Xi Jinping will evidently snub the Holy See while visiting Rome this week.
Vatican sources told Reuters that although there have been some behind-the-scenes discussions, Chinese officials have not requested a meeting between Xi Jinping and Pope Francis. It is customary for heads of state to visit the Holy See while in Rome.
“The pope is willing to see Xi Jinping, but I’m not sure Xi is willing to meet the pope,” said Fr. Sergio Ticozzi, an expert on mainland China Catholic affairs living in Hong Kong, according to The South China Morning Post.
“Politically speaking, it will go against his religious affairs policy if he accepts the Vatican’s invitation,” continued Ticozzi. “Xi has emphasized the sinicization of religions, so meeting the pope would kind of gesture an acceptance of interference from a Western religious authority in his domestic religious policy.”
The optics are bad for the Vatican
The official visit to Rome coincides with the publication of a new book by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin titled, The Church in China – A Future Yet to be Written. Parolin was one of the chief negotiators of the Vatican-Chinese communist government deal.
Perhaps to entreat the Chinese president to meet with the Pope, Parolin wrote in the book’s introduction, “The Holy See (nurtures) no distrust or hostility toward any country.”
Parolin further asserts that the Catholic Church in China “cannot be separated from a stance of respect, esteem, and trust toward the Chinese people and their legitimate state authorities.”
Vatican effectively ceded control of the Chinese Catholic Church to Communists
The September agreement weakened the “Underground Catholic Church” in China, which had remained faithful to the Holy See through decades of communist persecution and suppression while favoring the government-approved Chinese Patriotic Church.
Before the ink had a chance to dry on the ‘historic’ agreement, the Chinese Patriotic Church declared its “independence,” stating that it will remain loyal to the communist regime.
The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics and the Council of Bishops of the Church of China — neither of which have been recognized by the Vatican — avowed that “The Chinese Catholic Church ‘will continue to operate independently,’” according to a report by AsiaNews at the time.
“We love the country and the Church, we will carry forward the principle of independence and the concept of the sinicization of religion while remaining on the path that leads to socialist society,” the Chinese Church stated.
“Independence” suggests independence from Rome’s authority and “sinicization” refers to the process where foreign influences within China are made more compatible with Chinese culture. In reality, however, sinicization has become the government's attempt to co-opt Christianity.
Vatican deaf to criticism of China deal
After the agreement with the Chinese government was announced, Parolin said, “For the first time all the bishops in China are in communion with the bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter. And Pope Francis, like his immediate predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese people.”
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who has been a fierce critic of the deal with China, accused Parolin of an “incredible betrayal” of the Church in China and said he should resign.
“They’re giving the flock into the mouths of wolves,” Cardinal Zen said in the run-up to the diplomatic agreement between the Vatican and Communist Beijing.
“The consequences will be tragic and long-lasting, not only for the church in China but for the whole Church because it damages the credibility,” he added.
China expert Steven Mosher has echoed Cardinal Zen, saying, “I believe that the ‘provisional agreement’ is a betrayal of the Catholic Church in China.”
“I see it as a betrayal on several levels,” wrote Mosher. “It betrays the authority of the papacy by giving the Chinese Communist Party the right to name bishops. It betrays the underground Church in China, a Church which not only has survived decades of persecution at the hands of the authorities but is now, once again, under siege. And — I would argue — because it is a secret agreement, it betrays the truth by allowing both sides to misrepresent it.”
Parolin told Mosher in May that the signing of an agreement with the Chinese Party-State would give Rome “leverage” over the Communist authorities that it could use to help Catholics in China. But how much leverage does an agreement give you that is not only “secret” but entirely “provisional?”
“The answer, of course, is none,” added Mosher.