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Secret China-Vatican deal raises alarms for Christians

A ministry that serves persecuted Christians around the globe is raising alarms about a new deal between China and the Vatican.

At least partly because the deal still is secret.

It is Christian Solidarity Worldwide, or CSW, that pointed out that a “provisional agreement” signed between China and the Vatican apparently concerns the appointment of bishops in China.

The organization, which has advocates in more than 20 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Middle East to work to protect freedom of religion, envisions a world in which everyone can practice the religion of their choice.

It’s concern with the agreement is that it comes “amid a crackdown on religious communities across the country, including the detention of Catholic clergy and restrictions on their religious practices.”

“The agreement was signed on 22 September 2018. Details of the deal remain unknown, but it is believed that under the agreement the Chinese authorities will submit a candidate for bishop to the Vatican, with the pope having final veto power,” the report said.

“Whilst some welcome the agreement, which they believe brings an end to a 70-year impasse between China and the Vatican, many Catholics remain divided on the issue, arguing that the appointment of bishops must remain a papal decision. Critics believe that in signing this agreement, it creates the perception that the Vatican may appear to have indirectly legitimized China’s oppressive record against religious groups, including Catholics,” CSW said.

“CSW is deeply concerned about the timing of this provisional agreement between the Chinese government and the Vatican,” said Benedict Rogers, the organizations East Asia team leader. “While we understand some of the motivations behind the Vatican’s effort towards an agreement, there are significant concerns about the implications for freedom of religion or belief in China. If any such agreement is to be of real value, it must put freedom of religion or belief at the center.

“We reiterate [our] call on the Chinese authorities to release all Catholics in China held in any form of detention, and all others detained in connection with their peaceful religious activities.”

China has in recent months been increasing its persecution of religious people and religious activities.

It has targeted both registered and unregistered, Protestant and Catholic churches.

“Since the passage of the Regulations on Religious Affairs on 1 February, authorities have demolished at least 20 churches, removed or demolished 100 crosses and made hundreds of arrests in Henan province alone,” CSW said.

“This is not an exhaustive list and the true number of incidents are likely to be higher, both in Henan and across China,” the organization reported.

It’s all part of the nation’s “sinicization” by the government, an effort to replace religious symbols with Communist Party slogans, flags and images.

China is attacking not only Christians, but Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong members as well, the report says.