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Prominent British, Irish Catholics sign open letter criticizing Vatican’s new China policy

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

LONDON, England, November 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) ― A number of prominent Catholics in the British Isles have signed an open letter expressing dismay at the Vatican’s new deal with the Chinese government.

The signatories include journalist Joanna Bogle; scholar and Professor David Paton and Dr. Joseph Shaw; apologist Peter D. Williams; Irish pro-life activist and former Member of European Parliament Kathy Sinnott; clerics Fr. David Palmer and Deacon Nick Donnelly; and the Member of Parliament for Southend West, Essex, Sir David Amess.

Their open letter appeared this morning in Britain’s Catholic Herald.

They are worried by reports that the atheist-communist Chinese government have been granted a role in choosing Catholic bishops. However, they are even more concerned about the worsening persecution of Catholics and other religious groups, particularly Muslim Uighurs, under the regime of President Xi Jinping.

“The U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China annual report has warned that China’s incarceration of one million Uighurs in Orwellian political re-education camps ‘may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity,’” they wrote.  

“The Chinese authorities have also continued to harass, detain, or hold indefinitely and incommunicado certain leading Catholic clergy, including Bishops Guo and Shao in the last year,” they continued. (Full letter republished below.)

The signatories mentioned also the numerous measures recently leveled against other Christians in China as part of a supposed “sinicization” process, including mass arrests and the razing of churches.

"Since 2017, churches in Henan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Liaoning and Hebei have been required to destroy banners and images with religious messages, fly the Chinese Communist flag, and sing the national anthem at services,” they wrote.

“Children have even been prohibited from going to church. In Henan alone, hundreds of Christians have been arrested and had Bibles confiscated, over 20 churches have been destroyed, and an estimated 100 crosses and other Christian symbols have been removed or destroyed.”

The signatories cite Cardinal Joseph Zen’s accusation that the Vatican has delivered its flock into the mouths of wolves and conclude that “history’s judgment” may be even harsher.

Shaw, a recent addition to our team, told LifeSiteNews that Catholic apologist Peter D. Williams sent him the letter as a Google document, and he signed it “right away.”

“I am profoundly disturbed by both the principles and the consequences of the Vatican’s agreement with the Chinese state,” Shaw said.

Noting that the secrecy of the agreement is “itself a worrying sign,” the scholar is concerned by reports that faithful Catholic “underground” bishops have been asked to “effectively hand over their flocks to bishops of the Patriotic Catholic Association, which is an arm of the Chinese state.”

Both this and the destruction of churches have an unfortunate precedent.

“The same pattern can be seen in Vietnam, where the Vatican sought a deal with the Communist state some years ago,” Shaw said.  

The scholar contrasted the Vatican’s apparent acceptance of the ultimate governance of the Church in China by a “fundamentally hostile secular power” with its refusal to allow such a thing in ages past.

“It is a supreme irony that the Holy See would never have permitted this in past times, even in the era when Catholic monarchs insisted on a say in the appointment of bishops in their countries,” Shaw said.

“The Vatican’s policy today seems to be that Catholic lay leaders should not be allowed to influence the appointment of bishops, but Communist persecutors of the Church can be,” he concluded.

Open Letter

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our profound dismay at the Holy See’s recently negotiated ‘provisional agreement’ with the People’s Republic of China.

Whilst the official wording of the agreement has not been released, all the indications are that the officially atheist Chinese Government has been given a role in choosing Catholic bishops. Far worse even than this however, under the presidency of Xi Xinping, China’s Catholics and other minority religious groups, notably the Muslim Uighurs, are enduring the harshest repression for many decades.

The U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China annual report has warned that China’s incarceration of one million Uighurs in Orwellian political re-education camps “may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity”.

The Chinese authorities have also continued to harass, detain, or hold indefinitely and incommunicado certain leading Catholic clergy, including Bishops Guo and Shao in the last year.

In May 2018, the state-imposed Bishops of the Government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) passed a five-year plan for the “sinicisation” of Catholicism in China, which means the compulsory conformity of Catholic Christianity to the Chinese Government’s political ideology.

Since 2017, churches in Henan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Liaoning and Hebei have been required to destroy banners and images with religious messages, fly the Chinese Communist flag, and sing the national anthem at services. Children have even been prohibited from going to church. In Henan alone, hundreds of Christians have been arrested and had Bibles confiscated, over 20 churches have been destroyed, and an estimated 100 crosses and other Christian symbols have been removed or destroyed.

In light of these human rights abuses, and the oppressive nature of Xi Jinping’s regime, it is no surprise to see the bad faith of the Chinese Government manifest in the recent destruction of two Catholic Marian Shrines in China since the signing of the agreement. All this illustrates the ominous precedent for the Sino-Vatican treaty: the Concordats with European totalitarian regimes in the early 20th century.

Cardinal Zen has accused the Vatican of delivering its flock into the mouths of wolves. History’s judgment may be much harsher than that.

Sir David Amess MP

Kathy Sinnott

Joanna Bogle DSG [LSN note: Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great]

Prof. David Paton

Dr. Joseph Shaw

Fr. David Palmer

Rev. Nicholas Donnelly

Peter D. Williams

Patrick Cusworth

Louise Doris

Catherine Lafferty

Richard McCarthy

Patricia Fordyce

James Preece

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