Catholics in China already are perplexed by a secret deal the Vatican has made with Beijing, and now Pope Francis has told Chinese bishops they should show “loyalty” to the communist regime.
The pope said, according to an article Sunday in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, that seven Chinese bishops newly acknowledged by the Vatican should show “respect and loyalty to civil authorities” while adhering to their faith, reported Breitbart News.
The pope urged “all the Bishops to renew their total adherence to Christ and to the Church.”
But he also said that “as members of the Chinese people, they are obliged to show respect and loyalty to the civil authorities.”
Francis said his statement was drawn from the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:21: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Breitbart noted a state-run Chinese newspaper, Global Times, called the statement the pope’s “latest goodwill gesture toward Beijing.”
Breitbart spoke with Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, who said Catholics in China are suffering “huge confusion” because of a recent deal that gave some authority to the Communist Party of China in the naming of Catholic bishops.
Zen said communist government officials are trying to pressure Catholics in China to join the Patriotic Association, the official, state-sanctioned church.
As with Protestants in China, a thriving underground church exists apart from the state-controlled church.
Zen pointed out that there is a reason why there are two Catholic communities in China.
“The Catholic Patriotic Association teaches against Catholic doctrine, and this has not changed,” he told Breitbart.
WND reported in December that amid a reversion to the Mao-era crackdown on religion, China shut down two prominent Protestant churches that have functioned outside the communist government’s authority.
A Sunday service at the 5,000-member Rongguili Church in Guangzhou founded in the 1970s by the late pastor Samuel Lamb was interrupted by 60 police officers and religious-affairs officials. The previous Sunday, the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu was shut down, and more than a dozen Christians were arrested, including pastor Wang Yi.
In September, Beijing’s largest unregistered church, the 1,500-member Zion Church, was closed, Christianity Today reported, after refusing a government order to install security cameras in the sanctuary.
Christianity Today reported Early Rain pastor Wang released a statement after his release defending his nonviolent resistance to China’s “evil” and “wicked” rulers.
“I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church,” he said.
“This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.”
In December, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent entity created by Congress, recommended that China be put on the State Department’s Countries of Particular Concern list of the world’s worst religious freedom violators.
Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said at the time of the report’s release that the Chinese government under President Xi Jingping is reverting to its old ways.
“China isn’t backing away from the religious persecution; it seems to be expanding,” he said.