01/13/2023, 16.38
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Beijing shows off the ‘sinicisation’ of Catholicism

The archbishop's palace in the capital is hosting an exhibition marking the 15th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of Mgr Li Shan. Some 41 panels reinterpret the history of Christianity in China, according to Xi Jinping's directives. More emphasis is given to patriotism than to Matteo Ricci.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Every time Chinese authorities talk about the role of religions in the country, they insist on the need for “sinicisation”.

In his speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China marking his third term in office, President Xi Jinping renewed his commitment "to the sinicisation of religion, guiding the adaptation of religion and socialist society to the Chinese context". But what does sinicisation mean specifically?

An example of how official bodies want this directive to be interpreted comes from an exhibition that opened recently at the Archbishop's Palace in Beijing marking the 15th anniversary of the appointment of Mgr Joseph Li Shan as the archbishop of the capital in 2007 with the assent of the Holy See even before the signing of the 2018 Provisional Agreement.

A few months ago, Archbishop Li Shan became the chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the official government entity that controls the life of the Church in China. Perhaps this is also why it was decided to mark the anniversary with something that explicitly refers to the directive upon which Xi Jinping insists.

Titled “Honouring heaven and loving the homeland. The history of the sinicisation of Catholicism in Beijing”, the exhibition consists of 41 panels with more than 600 images.

It took 16 months of work and five rounds of discussions among experts, with many drafts and redrafts, to systematically order and summarise in an exhaustive way the historical process of sinicisation of Catholicism in Beijing, this according to a statement from the archdiocese.

The introductory panel explains that the purpose of the initiative is to further promote the sinicisation of Catholicism, to better understand secretary general Xi Jinping's important statement on religion, to promote excellent Chinese culture, to strengthen cultural trust, and to explore Beijing's rich Catholic cultural resources.

From the images taken from the exhibition and posted on the WeChat account of the Archdiocese of Beijing, it is clear that patriotism is showcased. The image of the great Jesuit Matteo Ricci and some examples of the first significant attempts at inculturation appear in the section on the historical origins of sinicisation.

Overall, the history of patriotic entities is much more emphasised with Archbishop Fu Tieshan (1931-2007) as the key figure in Beijing defending the idea of an "autonomous" Church from Rome.

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