China to govern the Church?

Communist China has accelerated its policy of “sinicisation” of religions, with the implementation of a new set of crippling rules which Christian leaders say spell danger for their people, particularly for underground Catholics.

Feb 07, 2020

HONG KONG: Communist China has accelerated its policy of “sinicisation” of religions, with the implementation of a new set of crippling rules which Christian leaders say spell danger for their people, particularly for underground Catholics.

 The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)  introduced its Regulations on Religious Affairs in February 2018 but the revised administrative measures on religions came into force from Feb 1 across the country, covering all religions.

Among other things, the rules stipulate that each religion will be headed by a state-appointed conference, which will function as the supreme decision-making body for the respective religious group.

“Does this aim to abolish the traditional Church model headed by bishops and replace them with group conferences? If there is no Catholic head for a church, is it still a Catholic church?” asked Fr Li in Hebei province.

The Catholic priests and church members had opposed these measures but failed to stop them, said  Fr Li.

“The CCP’s purpose is obvious. It is to change the Catholic Church into a group that belongs to them. These rules will push the Church into serious dangers,” he warned.

President Xi Jinping, in a significant speech in 2016, said that the sinicisation of religion aims to adapt religions to Chinese society. The CCP must “guide the adaptation of religions to socialist society,” he said.

The revised measures, incorporated into six chapters and 41 articles, require all religious organisations to “observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances, and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values of socialism.”

They cover organisation, functions, offices, supervision, projects and financial administration of religious communities at national and local levels.

“Ever since the rules were introduced, the Christian community in China has been witnessing relentless persecution. Churches are being demolished, a ban has been imposed on online Bible sales, and several hundreds of Christians arrested for inciting subversion of state power,” said Fr Li.

Hau Baolu, a parish leader from Shaanxi, a province who has suffered severe repression over the years, said atheists have now come to manage the Church and wondered how the government could claim prominence over God and the Vatican in matters of faith and morals.

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