One expert said that in a complicated Church reality where the truth is often shrouded, the Vatican must keep pushing for the rights of Christians.
John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need said in comments to CNA that a June 23 report showing nearly half of Chinese Catholic dioceses are without a bishop is a sign of the hard reality for Catholics there.
“Nobody quite knows fully what is going in China but we would presume this report to be reasonably reliable and it shows, again, the extent to which the state is controlling the Church in China.”
“It also underlines the need for us to remain very concerned about the freedoms of the Church in China which should be allowed to govern itself and put the necessary structures in place to freely proclaim the Gospel,” he added.
The China Daily reported on June 23 that out of 97 dioceses, 44 are without bishops.
The news came as a conclusion of recent meetings of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church of China.
According to the report, Chinese bishops said that a lack of bishops has “seriously affected normal operations and church affairs at bishopless diocese(s).”
While neither the bishops’ conference nor the patriotic association is recognized by the Vatican, they are the only official voice allowed for Catholics in China in a state-controlled reality.
Association spokesman Fr. Yang Yu said they are looking to take “active and prudent” steps to address the problem.
Pontifex underlined the difficulty in knowing what the true situation is for the estimated six million Catholics in China.
“The reason we don’t know the full truth of what’s going on in China, especially as regards the Church, is that behind every apparent fact and statement lies a more complicated reality,” he said.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
“The Vatican needs to continue to press consistently and clearly for rights and privileges to which the Church is entitled,” he said.
He pointed to problems that go well below the surface.
“If the official Church is being controlled in this way it begs the question as to the problems being faced by the underground Church. One can only presume that things for them are much worse.”
Alan Holdren and David Kerr contributed to this report.