For Fr. Francis Hu, a priest from central China, the "experts" celebrating the agreement have no idea of the real situation in China and the Church. Since the agreement was signed, the sale of Christian material on the internet has been blocked; churches and crosses continue to be destroyed; minors are prohibited from entering church or receiving religious formation. The agreement risks being just a political gesture, which has no relevance for Catholics in China.
Xian (AsiaNews) - "Since the Sino-Vatican Agreement was signed, the situation of the Church in China has deteriorated and the survival space of the Church has shrunk": ascertains Fr. Francis Hu, a priest from central China, who defines himself as a priest of the "lower class clergy" working in one of the poorest areas of the country. Fr Francis, who belongs to the official Church, also criticizes "the so-called experts of the Church in China" who "jump for joy" over the agreement, but do not know "the real life of the Church". The priest also accuses "some (anonymous) Chinese bishops and priests" who arrive at positive conclusions without allowing "their brothers and sisters to express their true thoughts in depth". The bitter conclusion is that while a relationship between Beijing and the Vatican is to be hoped for, it cannot be done "with the sacrifice of the ecclesial community and Christians". To all intents and purposes the agreement is purely a political move, "without any relevance for Chinese Catholics". Below his analysis:
In the three months from June to August of this year, four underground bishops of the Chinese Church were officially installed with very sober ceremonies. This immediately indicated a green light for the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement which is about to expire. Suddenly, those few who call themselves experts of the Chinese Church jumped for joy, already predicting the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican. Some local bishops and priests - who remain anonymous - echoed them: Since the signing of the Sino-Vatican agreement, satisfactory progress has been made in the appointment of bishops, in the public installation of underground bishops and in cooperation and struggle against the pandemic. However, they didn't even allow their brothers and sisters to express their true thoughts in depth. In fact, the majority of Church members in China have responded poorly to the so-called collaboration they are so proud of. The fight against the pandemic, which requires the cooperation of all humanity, regardless of religion or nationality, or the installation of those underground bishops ...: most Chinese Catholics do not even know what is happening. Even the faithful of the parishes do not know what to talk about and celebrate because they do not know what it means.
So, what do the vast majority of Catholics in China know and experience?
Since the Sino-Vatican agreement was signed, they have experienced that the situation of the Church in China has deteriorated and the Church’s survival space has shrunk.
1. The sale on the Internet of books related to Christianity, especially the Bible, is prohibited. Other material related to Christianity, such as photos, paintings, instruments is becoming increasingly rare to locate.
2. The demolition of churches and crosses, which continues unabated after the signing of the agreement, is something that the vast majority of Catholics in China experience and are profoundly affected by.
3. Teenagers are forbidden to enter the church; it is forbidden to hold catechism studies for them; some places have even issued orders that no mention of Christianity is to be made in schools and workplaces.
4. Normal missionary activity is not only severely restricted, but is hindered at all times and in all places, branded as illicit [places]; as an illegal activity; even threatening closure in the name of insecurity.
These are the deep sentiments and experiences of the Chinese Church since the Sino-Vatican agreement was signed.
You foreigner, so-called experts of the Chinese Church, who have not really lived in China and in the Church in China, and are exalted abroad, do not represent the Chinese Church and the vast majority of its members. Because what we Chinese Catholics feel is completely different from what you see. More than forty years have passed since you advocated "dialogue", but we cannot see the progress achieved through dialogue, but we can see the Hong Kong of today. We Catholics can understand your behavior as the few domestic chinese bishops and priests who are cheering for this too, because regardless of the relations between Sino-Vatican, all you can do is to cheer. But your cheers can only speak for yourselves.
Of course, there is no one among the Catholics in China who does not hope for an early improvement in Sino-Vatican relations, and we often pray for that. We also absolutely support the spirit of openness and dialogue in Vatican II. But if the price of improving Sino- Vatican relations is the sacrifice of the church community and Christians (bishop、priests and laity), then it is just a political issue and irrelevant to the Chinese Catholics at large.
On the occasion of the expiration of the Sino-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops and its probable renewal, AsiaNews is publishing the dossier "The China-Vatican Agreement after two years”, with exclusive articles, testimonies and analysis.