Jul 1, 2020
Not long after coming to power in 1933, the German government headed by Adolf Hitler sought a formal agreement with the Holy See – a concordat setting terms of the church-state relationship. No sooner was the concordat in place, however, than the Nazis began violating it, prompting dozens of formal protests by from the Vatican.
By 1937 things had reached the point that Pope Pius XI felt moved to denounce Nazism in an encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge (With Burning Concern), drafted by a German cardinal and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII. Historian Michael Burleigh calls the document an “immensely astute critique of everything that Nazism stood for,” including its anti-Semitism and neo-paganism.
Is history now repeating itself on the other side of the globe? Since terms of the “Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops” reached in September 2018 between the Holy See and the Chinese government haven’t been made public – a disturbing circumstance in its own right – it is impossible to say flatly that Rome got a bad deal. But certainly the results so far have been highly disadvantageous to a large number of Chinese Catholics.
The agreement provides for bishops to be nominated by the government and confirmed by the pope. It expires in September but can be continued if both sides agree.
The Catholic Church is of course hardly the only one with problems in China. Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong, and other Christians are all under extreme pressure from the government of President Xi Jinping. As it has done for two decades, the State Department recently listed China as a “country of particular concern” in its annual Report on International Religious Freedom.