The agreement was undertaken to help unite the state-run Church and the underground Catholic Church. An estimated 6 million Catholics are registered with the CCPA, while several million are estimated to belong to unregistered Catholic communities which have remained loyal to the Holy See.
According to the new rules, once a new bishop is consecrated, the CCPA and the state-sanctioned bishops’ conference will send his information to the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
Registration of clergy in a database is a key part of the new administrative measures, under which clergy in China will also be required to promote the values of the Chinese Communist Party.
For instance, Article III of the administrative measures states that clergy “should love the motherland, support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system,” and “adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religion in China.”
The practice of Sinicization has been announced and implemented by president Xi Jinping in recent years; critics have called the plan an attempt to force religious practice under the control of the Chinese government and in line with the values of the CCP.
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In addition, clergy are expected under the rules to “operate to maintain national unity, religious harmony, and social stability.”
Section D of the measures states that clergy must “guide” citizens “to be patriotic and law-abiding.” They are forbidden from working to “undermine national unity” or from supporting “terrorist activities.”
It is unclear how “terrorist” is defined according to these new administrative measures. In Hong Kong’s national security law that was imposed from without by the national legislature in 2020, “terrorism” included such acts as arson and vandalizing public transport.