China has been conducting major military drills this week, which have included the launching of large missiles into the sea around Taiwan amid the visit.
Chambon, the UCA News columnist, noted that the tweeted image is “not only offensive but signals a potential return to the early communist ideology that could harm many.” He explained that another layer of meaning to the image may hearken back to a “myth” propagated by the government in the 1950s that “Catholic orphanages were factories to steal and kill Chinese babies.”
The ruling Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist, and religious believers of all stripes have faced persecution in China for years. The Catholic Church in China is split between the “underground” Catholic Church, which is persecuted and loyal to the pope, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is sanctioned by the government.
The Vatican in 2018 reached an as-yet unpublished provisional agreement with the Chinese government meant to bring about the unification of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the underground Church in communion with Rome. Instead, persecution of the underground Church has continued and, according to some, intensified. Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, a vocal critic of the Vatican-China deal, will face trial in September along with four other prominent democracy advocates.
The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan but has what the State Department calls “a robust unofficial relationship,” which includes deep trade ties. For years the U.S. has operated under a “one-China policy” to avoid angering the Chinese government. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said that the visit is not a sign that U.S. policy on Taiwan has changed.
Rogers, who is a sharp critic of the Vatican’s 2018 deal with China on the appointment of bishops, opined that the Chinese government’s clear animosity toward Catholicism — long known but on full display in the cartoon — provides “yet another reason why the Vatican should rethink its relationship with Beijing.”
Pope Francis has said he hopes the Vatican’s deal with China on the appointment of Catholic bishops will be renewed for a second two-year period in October.
“As the deadline for renewing the agreement with Beijing approaches, the Vatican should consider suspending the agreement in light of the genocide of the Uyghurs, the dismantling of Hong Kong's freedoms, the arrest of 90-year-old Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, the severe persecution of Christians in China and now this blatant insult to Catholics around the world,” Rogers told CNA.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.