The October meeting’s focus on the compatibility of sinicization and inculturation is not novel.
Fr. Benoit Vermander, a Jesuit priest in China, attempted to outline a path for "sinicization" of religion in a March 2018 issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, whose publication is overseen by the Secretariat of State.
While there are "evident dangers" in following a top-down policy that can bring "a substantial loss of identity," he argued, Catholics should not avoid sinicization simply because it is government backed. Rather, despite the problems created by the policy, dialogue between Catholics and the communist government is needed.
Fr. Vermander argued that Christians should listen to the government's appeal for sinicization and "examine which kind of changes it could lead them to imagine and undertake," while "being aware of the danger."
And in May 2019 Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, said that inculturation and sinicization can be "complementary" and "can open avenues for dialogue."
"These two terms, 'inculturation' and 'sinicization,' refer to each other without confusion and without opposition,” he told the Global Times, an English-language newspaper owned by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
"For the future, it will certainly be important to deepen this theme, especially the relationship between 'inculturation' and 'sinicization,' keeping in mind how the Chinese leadership has been able to reiterate their willingness not to undermine the nature and the doctrine of each religion," Cardinal Parolin said.
"Inculturation is an essential condition for a sound proclamation of the Gospel which, in order to bear fruit, requires, on the one hand, safeguarding its authentic purity and integrity and, on the other, presenting it according to the particular experience of each people and culture," he said.
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