Vatican accuses China of violating bilateral accord on bishop's appointment: Report

By ANI | Published: April 13, 2023 08:33 PM2023-04-13T20:33:30+5:302023-04-13T20:35:09+5:30

Shanghai [China], April 13 : In an odd move, on the eve of Easter, China appointed a new bishop ...

Vatican accuses China of violating bilateral accord on bishop's appointment: Report | Vatican accuses China of violating bilateral accord on bishop's appointment: Report

Vatican accuses China of violating bilateral accord on bishop's appointment: Report

Shanghai [China], April 13 : In an odd move, on the eve of Easter, China appointed a new bishop to Shanghai, the biggest Roman Catholic diocese in China, without apprising the Vatican. This is not the first time when China abandoned the bilateral pact signed with the Vatican over the appointment of Bishops. Its action has contested the Vatican's authority in the world and has set a bad example, reported The Times of Israel.

Holy See aka See of Rome learnt from the media about the transfer of Chinese Bishop Shen Bin to Shanghai, according to Vatican News, as cited by The Times of Israel. The Vatican said that the Holy See was informed "a few days ago" of the decision by China to transfer Bishop Shen Bin from Haimen, in Jiangsu province, to the diocese of Shanghai.

The announcement came four months after the Vatican accused China of breaking their bilateral accord on bishop appointments by putting in place a bishop in a diocese that was not recognised by the Holy See. After a lot of efforts, the secret pact was extended in October for the second time since 2018.

A report in The Times of Israel reads, Vatican City is tasked with managing Catholic issues around the globe. The power sought by the Roman Curia, particularly the right to choose bishops, inherently infringes upon the sovereignty of other nations, which is the supreme power of internal jurisdiction. In order to resolve the dispute, secular governments promote the idea of "separation of church and state," whereby the state grants the Pope the authority to manage Catholic affairs in accordance with the Canon Law but excludes him from interfering in secular affairs.

Strangely, China may be the only nation to have openly challenged the Vatican's authority to demonstrate its supremacy. It is the only nation facing problems with the Vatican, including political ones. The People's Republic of China and the Vatican do not, in fact, enjoy friendly diplomatic relations, especially after Xi assumed power in 2012. Xi Jinping has been enhancing the CCP's predominant role in every perspective, including religion with an intention that the Party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavour in every part of the country, reported The Times of Israel.

Beijing has its own way of functioning with regard to Bishops. With its autonomous ecclesiastical orgsation, the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), it chooses and installs its own bishops. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) demonstrates that the Chinese Catholic Church is independent and has cut its links with the Vatican on a political and financial level. The former State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), which was incorporated into the CCP's United Front Work Department (UFD) as part of China's 2018 institutional reform, used to control the two groups, as per The Times of Israel.

As far as Shen in considered, his appointment has unlocked Pandora's box. Ironically, Shen, the leader of the Council of Chinese Bishops, chose himself to become the first-ever bishop of Shanghai. Furthermore, the Holy See has not recognised the Council of Chinese Bishops, which is virtually under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. Shen avoided talking about the status of the churches in China in favour of talking about patriotism. The diocese of Shanghai quoted Bishop Shen Bin on its website as saying that he would uphold the fundamental principles of independence and self-government and carry on the excellent tradition of patriotism and love of the Catholic Church in Shanghai.

The status of those churches and questions about who has the power to name bishops are at the crux of the negotiations between China and Vatican. According to the report, China is also closely monitoring the church's position regarding the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

The report made it quite evident that Christians and other minorities in China do not enjoy full religious freedom. It should be noted that only six new bishops have been installed since the Vatican and China reached their 2018 agreement.

Experts do not completely rule out the possibility of China flagrantly breaking the terms of the agreement reached with the Pope and promoting Xi Jinping's aim of total control over every institution. China also is keeping a close eye on the church's stance on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, according to the report. They fear for the rights of Christians and other minorities under Xi Jinping's rule, The Times of Israel reported.

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