10/19/2017, 13.08
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At the Congress Xi reaffirms: Sinicization of religions under the Communist Party

by Li Yuan

In his speech yesterday at the Party Congress, Xi Jinping reiterated the "new approach" to religious activities. The Catholic Church reiterates the independence of nomination and ordination of bishops. Two bishops present at the Congress: Msgr. Giovanni Fang Xingyao of Linyi and Msgr. Giuseppe Ma Yinglin of Kunming.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Insisting the direction of “Siniciziation of religions” was stressed among main goals and visions in General Secretary Xi Jinping’s work report in the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. His epic address or the so-called “Xi Jinping Thought” is expected to become dogma of the Party.

A 4-point summary on the part of religion was published on October 18 on “Weyan Zhongjiao,” a Wechat official account of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), soon after Xi made his three and a half-hour speech the same day.

The congress runs from October 18-24 with 2,280 Communist representatives joining. Bishops Fang Xingyao and Ma Yinglin, heads of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference for the Catholic Church in China (both organizations not recognized by the Holy See), and five leaders of four other religions were among the 74 special guests invited to the meeting.

In his speech, Xi said the Party will fully implement its basic policy on religious work, “uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation, and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society.”

The Party also has to rigorously protect against and take resolute measures to combat all acts of infiltration, subversion, sabotage, as well as violent terrorist activities, ethnic separatist activities and religious extremist activities to safeguard national security, he said.

 Xi also spoke of the flourishing of a socialist consultative democracy, “consolidation of the patriotic united front and new approaches adopted for works related to ethnic and religious affairs” in major steps taken in developing socialist society and the rule of law.

To uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, he said the Party has to make “theoretical analysis and provide policy guidance” in ethnic and religious affairs among other aspects, such as political affairs, rule of law, culture, education, the well-being of people, united front, foreign affairs and Party building.

While there was no elaboration on the “new approaches” for religious works in Xi’s speech, Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the Divinity School at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on his Facebook that Sinicization of religion, a direction established by Xi first in the Central United Front Work Meeting in 2015, would be the core religious theory for socialism with Chinese characteristic in the new era.

Christians in China interpret the word “sinicization” is to make religion come under the Party.  An earlier article on Qiushi, a top-level journal on Communist theory run by the Party’s Central Committee, might also offer a glimpse on the new approaches.

The article published on Sept 15 was titled the “Theory and Innovative Practice on Religious Work since the 18th National Congress of the CPC” in 2012. It said Xi has “provided a series of new thoughts and views as well as new requirements on religious works and has mapped out a series of important decisions” in the 2016 National Conference on Religious Works.

It basically summarized main points of Xi’s speech delivered in the conference, including providing “guidance” to the religious sectors, insisting an independent principle of religion, and for the Catholic Church, is to give support to elect and ordain bishops on its own while strengthening the patriotic force.

 In fact, the SARA and the United Front Work Department have mentioned several times about ‘mapping out important strategies’ for different religions in their news releases in the past year,” said a church commentator who requests anonymity.

 “Though those news releases did not give clues to what those plans were, as they would not make it public, the most important issue for the Catholic Church that needs to map out a strategy certainly would be China-Vatican negotiations,” he said.

 The ongoing negotiations, including the latest one in October, is to resolve primarily the issue on the appointments of Chinese bishops. From what we know about these dialogues, China claims the right to appoint and ordain its own bishops, leaving to the Holy See only a very shallow veto power.

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