Pope Francis bows to Communist China and confirms bishop appointed by Beijing

On Saturday, Pope Francis signaled to China and to the world that the secretive Vatican-China deal does indeed surrender the Vatican’s authority and power to the Communist authorities in Beijing.

In the daily bulletin on July 15, the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Joseph Shen Bin as Bishop of Shanghai, thus “transferring him from the Diocese of Haimen, Jiangsu Province.” 

The significant news was, as has lately become commonplace from the Vatican, issued on a Saturday in an apparent move to draw the least attention possible. 

If the name of Bishop Shen Bin is familiar, that is because he was already appointed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as head of the Diocese of Shanghai back on April 4 of this year, in a move which the Vatican was only “informed” about but not involved in.

His April appointment came from the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Group, part of the official Chinese state-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).

Shen serves as head of the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Group, which does not recognize the authority of the Holy See with regard to appointing new bishops.

By appointing Shen to Shanghai, the CCP completely disregarded the terms of the secretive 2018 Sino-Vatican deal, which is supposed to be a collaboration between the Vatican and Beijing with regard to appointing bishops. 

Instead, the Vatican stated via its press office that “the Holy See had been informed a few days ago of the decision of the Chinese authorities” and then “learned from the media of the settlement” on the morning the event took place. 

At the time, the Vatican-recognized bishop of Shanghai was actually Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who had been appointed to the see as its auxiliary in 2012, with the CCP believing him to be loyal to them. However, after his consecration, he denounced and left the CPA and was subsequently sequestered to house arrest in a nearby seminary. 

Shen himself had been recognized by the Vatican in his former diocese of Haimen at the time of his move to Shanghai.

Chinese authorities subsequently visited his new see of Shanghai in May, in order to ensure that he was propagating CCP-approved policies. Local news reports wrote that the visitation was to “study the local church’s progress on the implementation of socialist policies” and to enforce the “Chineseization (Sinicization) of religion.” 

With such background, the Pope’s move to retroactively approve the CCP’s decision was widely slated by Catholics who have expressed concerns about the Vatican’s current relationship with Beijing. “Francis’s China policy is fully exposed as an unforgivable, wicked betrayal of Chinese Catholics, as he is forced to act as an agent of the CCP in installing its stooge as Bishop of Shanghai,” wrote The Spectator’s Damian Thompson.

Vatican’s Secretary of State defends move

The Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has, along with Pope Francis, continually defended the deal, which has been twice renewed since its inception in fall 2018. He continued this record on Saturday with the publication of an interview conducted with Vatican News, in which he explained and defended Pope Francis’ decision to approve the CCP’s hijacking of the Vatican’s authority. 

Parolin stated that the CCP’s move to install Shen—and also Bishop John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi, which is a diocese not recognized by the Holy See—“seems to disregard the spirit of dialogue and collaboration established between the Vatican and Chinese sides over the years and which has found a point of reference in the Agreement.” Indeed, regarding Bishop John’s appointment, the Vatican declared that it learnt of the ceremony afterward with “surprise and regret.” 

But Parolin told Vatican News that “the Holy Father Francis has decided to heal the canonical irregularity created in Shanghai, in view of the greater good of the Diocese and the fruitful exercise of the Bishop’s pastoral ministry.”

Parolin added that the Vatican was still hoping for future collaboration with the CCP on the position of two other bishops, whose positions “have been pending for some time.” 

In his interview—which was issued in full to journalists but only partly published by Vatican News—Parolin also fielded questions about the Sino-Vatican deal itself, stating that “the text is confidential because it has not yet been finally approved.”

Such an argument is slightly peculiar, given that the deal has now been renewed twice since 2018—thus calling into doubt its temporary nature—but also given that Pope Francis has previously published online his temporary reforms relating to the Vatican before they were then re-issued in a final version some years later.

The deal, which “revolves around the basic principle of consensuality of decisions affecting bishops,” is effected by “trusting in the wisdom and goodwill of all,” said Parolin.

But China expert Stephen Mosher described the deal as an action which was “perhaps the most controversial of a papacy dogged by controversy.” Critiquing the deal in 2018, Mosher summarized a Vatican capitulation to Beijing and predicted future power-grabs by the Chinese:

Given all this, why would Beijing not think that the Pope would prove equally compliant in the future in accepting those candidates they would advance?  It has never stopped insisting on total control…The only way for the agreement to work is for the Pope simply to go along with Beijing’s choices. To do otherwise would interfere in China’s “sovereignty.”

The emeritus bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has repeatedly criticized the deal strongly. He described it as an “incredible betrayal” of China’s Catholics and accused the Vatican of “selling out” Chinese Catholics.

While Parolin defended the deal as a necessary means of “dialogue” with the Communists authorities, the deal has actually led to a heightened increase in religious persecution since it was signed, which the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China described as a direct consequence of the deal. In its 2020 report, the Commission wrote that the persecution witnessed is “of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”

The Commission directly linked the increase in Catholic persecution to the deal: “Subsequently, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increased persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy. The Party-led Catholic national religious organizations also published a plan to ‘sinicize’ Catholicism in China.”

(Article by Michael Haynes republished from LifeSiteNews.com)

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