Fear of Sino-Vatican Agreement: Echoes of the Church and Hitler

The situation of the Church in China has become increasingly worse since the signing of the agreement. The concordat with Nazi Germany in 1933 gave the Church freedom for a few months. Then crucifixes were removed from the schools; Catholic associations were brought back under the Nazi party; everyone was obliged to study Nazism. Fritz Stern: The concordat with the Holy See boosted Hitler’s respectability in Germany and abroad.

Sep 19, 2020

By Li Ruohan
Crux reported that the Provisional agreement of the Sino-Vatican agreement will be renewed. The agreement was signed in September 2018 and expires in October of this year. Some Vatican seniors claim that the purpose of the deal is to promote the unification of the Catholic Church in China and improve the situation of the Underground Church. However, the situation of the Church in China has gotten worse and worse after the agreement. The demolishing of crosses has not ceased and young people under 18 years of age are banned from entering a church. All of those actions are part of a persecution policy. The Sino-Vatican deal is reminiscent of the Nazi Germany’s deal with the Holy See.

Following the unification of Germany in the 1870s, German Catholics became a minority in a country with a Protestant majority. The faithful always faced the accusation that the German Catholics were not true Germans because they accepted the authority of Rome. The German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, started the battle of Culture with the Catholic Church in Germany. They closed the churches and monasteries and expelled the clergy. In response, German Catholics set up the Catholic Centre Party and got support from the Church. Finally, the Church successfully protected its interests through fighting with Bismarck. The Holy See signed some deals with several local governments (Prussia, Bavaria, Baden) during the Weimarer Republic (19181933). However, The Holy See wanted to sign a national concordat with the German central Government. In the general election of 1933, Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, became the new Chancellor. Hitler considered that his regime was not very stable and needed an alliance with the Catholic Centre Party. He invited Franz Von Papen, the leader of Center  Party, to be vice Chancellor of the Nazi government. The faithful majority did not have a favourable impression of the Nazi party. In order to change the negative attitude of the Nazi government Hitler authorised Franz von Papen to start negotiations with the Holy See for a concordat. Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII) and Pope Pius XI were interested in reaching an agreement with Nazi Germany. On July 20, 1933, the Vatican and Nazi Germany signed the concordat against this background.

According to the concordat, The Catholic Church agreed not to go against the political and social theory of the Nazi Party. The German government guaranteed freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion, confirming the Holy See’s right to appoint a papal nuncio in Berlin and the German government’s right to have an ambassador in Rome. The German bishops would take an oath of loyalty to the country. The concordat also protected the religious orders’ freedom for charitable, pastoral and educational work. The properties of the Catholic Church were protected according to German law. The Church had the right to set up theological colleges for the training of priests and to maintain the Catholic academic faculties in the national universities.

No matter how good the concordat the problem was in the implementation. Six months after the agreement, the Catholic youth associations — with all the other  associations — were forced to join the Nazi youth association. The crucifix was banned in schools and the children of Catholic families were compelled, like everyone else, to study in Nazi approved schools. Hundreds of priests were jailed for criticising Nazism. In 1937, Pope Pius XI released the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge condemning the violations of the concordat.

Unfortunately, although Pope Pius XI denounced the persecution by the Nazi party, the damage was done.

The concordat could not be changed to improve the situation of the Catholics in Nazi Germany. In contrast, the concordat weakened the authority of the Holy See, misleading the faithful into accepting Nazi rule and considering the Holy See as an ally of Nazi Germany. As historian Fritz Stern said; “Hitler had even more reason to be satisfied. The concordat was his first international agreement, and it vastly enhanced his respectability in Germany and abroad. A great moral authority had trusted his word.” [1]

Now history is repeating itself in China, so please remember the lesson of Nazi Germany. Do not cause another tragedy. Please do not in the name of love and unification give way to torture and murder in the Church of China!––AsiaNews/Agencies

[1]  Fritz Stern, Dreams and Delusions: The Drama of German History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 169

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