05/31/2018, 11.40
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Ahead of China-Vatican dialogue, a five-year plan to Sinicize the Church under the Party

by Wang Zhicheng

The plan omits specific details. Sinicization launched by Xi Jinping in 2015, demanding an assimilation of Chinese culture, independence from "foreign forces", leadership of the Communist Party. A new meeting between the Chinese and Vatican delegations at the beginning of June. But few are optimistic. For the Archbishop of Taipei there is no agreement yet. Attention to the "Pastoral Bible", which re-interprets the Gospel, adapting it to communism.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics (PA) and the Council of Chinese Bishops (BCCC) have launched a "Five-Year Plan of Development for the Sinicization of the Catholic Church in China". The plan was approved by acclamation in the Fourth Joint Meeting of the two national bodies, held last week, attended by the leaders of the two organizations, neither of which are recognized by the Holy See.

In his address to the gathering, Yu Bo, vice director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, explained that " The 4th coalition meeting is to implement deeper the spirit of the Ninteenh National Congress of the Communist Party in October 2017 and the spirit of the National Conference on Religious Work in April 2016, and to focus on the deliberations of a five-year plan to advance sinicization of the China Catholic Church".

The "sinicization" of religions and of the Chinese Catholic Church has been a constant theme since 2015, when President Xi Jinping took part in a meeting of the United Front (the body that should oversee all the non-communist realities of China) . It involves:

a) increasing assimilation of Chinese culture into religious expression, eliminating "foreign influences";

b) "independence from foreign influence" (which means to do without the mandate of the Holy See for episcopal ordinations);

c) submission to the Party because it must "guide" religions and must "hold firmly the role of leadership in all religious activities".

No details of the 5-Year Outline were mentioned in the May 22 news release of the CCPA-BCCCC website. Even in the previous three coalition meetings, which have been devising contents for the Sinicization of the China Catholic Church, the CCPA-BCCCC website also gave no details. Some Catholic observers believed it was perhaps not to offend the Vatican, as China and the Vatican is undergoing negotiations and some illicit bishops in the national Church bodies are waiting for the Pope to absolve them.

However, a news report of the "Minzu Bao" (the official journal on religious and ethnic topics) of July 25 2017 on the first coalition meeting offered glimpses. It said the plan will be undertaken through five aspects. Based on a sincized Catholicism, it will

1. take unified action to link up the development of the China Church;

2. understand the history of the China Church;

3. drive theological research of the China Church;

4. pay emphasis on implementation in advancing evangelization and pastoral work;

5. focus on the manifestation of a sinicized China Church in architecture, arts, and liturgy.

The Fourth Common Meeting took place just as ecclesial sources in China and outside the country say that next week there will be a new round of negotiations between China and the Vatican. Last February, rumors had spread that there would be a meeting between the Chinese and Vatican delegations in March, but none took place. It was even rumored that if everything gets set in this early June meeting, another round would take place in late June for the signing of the accord.

In general, Chinese Catholics do not seem optimistic about the signing of the agreement. Violence against the Church has emerged in recent months (ban on minors going to church in Henan, destruction in Xinjiang, etc. ...). In addition, on the internet, anonymous bloggers revealed a name list of about 20 bishops that the Holy See appointed before and after the China-Vatican negotiations resumed in 2014, implying the Holy See breached consensus in the negotiations.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post on May 18, Msgr. John Hung Shan-chuan, Archbishop of Taipei, said that the Pope told him that he would not compromise Catholic principles for the negotiations and that the power to appoint bishops must remain in the hands of the pontiff. For this, concludes Msgr. Hung, there is still no final agreement on the dialogue.

The "Sinicization" plan also involves the Protestant Church and was approved last April. Rumors have spread that the Communist Party would like to "rewrite the Bible". In fact, according to Protestant scholars, this idea is ridiculous, but Christians should pay attention to attempts to re-interpret the Bible, as happened in the recent past in Latin America, when the "Pastoral Bibles", which tried to re – interpret the Gospel message by bringing it closer to the communist ideology.

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