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HONG KONG, February 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In a clear sign of escalating anxiety, about 200 Hong Kong Catholics gathered for an all night-vigil to pray and express alarm over the Vatican’s pending capitulation to mainland China’s push for more communist control over the Chinese Catholic Church.

“It’s a precarious situation. There’s a real danger of division,” said one priest at the prayer service who asked to remain anonymous, according to a Reuters report.  

Those attending the vigil share Hong Kong Cardinal Zen’s concerns.  After visiting the Pope in Rome in late January, the 87 year-old Cardinal minced no words, saying, “So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely.”

Open letter to the Vatican

On the same day as the prayer vigil, an open letter addressed to bishops’ conferences around the world––signed by Hong Kong-based academics, lawyers and human rights activists––warned that the Vatican’s actions would plunge Chinese Catholics “into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.”

The letter implores the world’s bishops to ask the Vatican to “rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.”

“We fully understand that the Holy See is eager to be able to evangelize in China more effectively. However, we are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied,” say the signatories, as reported in Crux.

“The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions,” the letter continues.  “So, there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises.”

They warn that the Vatican’s handshake with Beijing would “also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power.”

The fate of millions of faithful members of China’s underground Catholic Church which, unlike the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, has been as closely tied to the Vatican as practicable, now hangs in the balance.

The signers of the open letter are inviting signatures from interested individuals. Sign their petition here.

Chinese Catholics foresee danger

Reports in recent weeks coming out of China speak of the fear caused by the Vatican’s recent dealings with China’s communist regime.

John, an underground priest, told that the Vatican’s plan is “like asking the underground church to take communion with the devil.” The underground church feels abandoned and betrayed, he said.

He went on to say that the “Holy See is mistaken if it believes it can achieve unity by supporting the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association,” according to the report.

Father John of Yunnan underground community told that the Holy See and the Catholic Patriotic Association have the same aim: “Both want to extinguish our underground community.”

The hidden meaning of “sinicization”

Lost amid recent controversies sparked by the Vatican abdication of bishop appointments to the Chinese government is the regime’s enactment of strict new regulations concerning religious affairs.

While presented as nothing more than a bureaucratic revision to existing regulations, the move is seen by many as a giant step backwards toward increased state control of all religions––including Catholicism––by the nation’s communist government. 

Chinese officials insist that their goal is benign “sinicization,” a process where foreign influences within the country are made more compatible with Chinese culture.  In reality, it is a mandate to co-opt Christianity––a process which is exacting an increasingly quantifiable toll on Chinese Christians.  

“Sinicization,” according to China Aid’s 2014 Annual Report of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China, “amounts to de-Christianizing the church in China and eradicating the universal nature of Christianity,” elevating “the interests of the Communist Party,” and “usurping Christian doctrine that ‘Christ is the head of Church.’”

And now, days after Vatican Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo praised China as ‘best’ at implementing Church teaching on social doctrine, China’s millions of underground Catholics have more reason than ever to worry that they are being abandoned by Rome to a communist regime’s state-controlled church.   

What Westerners need to understand

A cloud of dread has hung over tens of millions in the Christian community since the new laws were announced last year. 

“In recent months Catholics in China had anticipated the upcoming February 1 implementation of the government’s new, stricter regulations on religion with a sense of foreboding,” says John Lindblom, writing for Notre Dame University’s Church Life Journal.   

Lindholm says that Chinese Catholics view the new regulations, “as the regime’s attempt to achieve two goals with regard to China’s divided Catholic Church: 1) to greatly increase its already strong control over the ‘official’ (government-recognized) church, and 2) to eradicate the activities of the ‘unofficial’ or underground church though fines and prohibiting their gatherings (presumably stopping them by force, whereas they had previously often turned a blind eye), with the goal of eliminating it altogether by forcing it to amalgamate with the official church.”

“Many Catholics, however, especially in the underground Church,” interpret the Vatican’s sudden eagerness to work with the communist regime “as the wrong approach, rewarding those who are least worthy of being in leadership,” Says Lindholm.

“The regime’s ultimate policy,” warns Lindholm, “is that no organization, least of all a religious one, is to be governed by a foreign power, which can lead to insurgent movements and threaten the party’s rule.”

When news of the Vatican capitulation emerged in the weeks leading up to the enactment of the new laws, many Catholics worried “that by aligning with Beijing, the Vatican risks betraying the underground clergy and followers who have remained loyal to the Pope’s authority to appoint bishops.”  

“We are simply negotiating the surrender of the underground Church,” says Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and author of Bully of Asia, “the delivery of underground Catholics into the hands of the Patriotic Association, which is beholden to the Communist Party of China and answers to it.”

China’s recent crackdown on religion

According to its 2017 Annual Report issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “In 2016, the Chinese government continued its campaign to remove crosses and demolish churches.”  

“Since 2014, authorities have removed crosses or demolished churches at more than 1,500 locations in Zhejiang Province alone,” continues the report. “During 2016, Chinese authorities arrested Christians for displaying the cross in their homes and printing religious materials, threatened parents for bringing their children to church, and blocked them from holding certain religious activities.”

All this was occuring before the new, stricter regulations became law last week.

Imbedded deeper in the official report, one comes across disturbing allegations of imprisonment and barbaric violence against China’s religious minorities, who become nothing more than a source for organ harvesting. “Organ donors often are nonconsenting, particularly executed Falun Gong prisoners and detainees, though individuals from other faiths also have been targeted, such as Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Christians.”

Most westerners think that this sort of barbarism exists only in China’s distant past, yet it is here and now.