The idea of sinicization is to imbue "religious theories with Chinese character," as president Xi Jinping stressed at October's party congress.
"Sinicization" has been a core topic for the Chinese leadership in the last three years.
In February, Daniel Mark, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrote in First Things that sinicization of religion is "a process of manipulating and subduing faith so as to render it compatible with the state's totalitarian aims."
In the midst of this resistance, a Jesuit priest in China, Fr. Benoit Vermander, has penned a proposal, a pathway, for "sinicization" of religion, in the March 3 issue of the Jesuit-run journal La Civiltà Cattolica, whose publication is overseen by the Vatican's Secretariat of State.
Vermander argued that Catholics of China ought not neglect the push for the "sinicization" of Catholicism merely because it comes from the government.
Vermander noted that zhongguohua, the Chinese word for sinicization is hard to translate, and that it has been rendered to reflect the idea of "having a Chinese orientation. He generally stressed that, despite the problems provided by the doctrine of sinicization, especially since it is accompanied by new regulations on religious activities, dialogue between Catholics and the Communist government is needed.
"Making religions more Chinese," Vermander argued, does not mean developing local rites and doctrine, but instead adhering "to the definition of Chinese culture" as president Xi Jinping put it during the 19th Congress of the Communist party."
Many critics have argued that Xi Jinping's vision of Chinese culture is synonymous with the aims of the country's communist regime.
In October, Xi Jinping said that the Chinese must "tap into the great Chinese traditional culture, keeping alive and developing its vision, notions, values and moral norms," and doing that "in a way that fit to our times."
Vermander conceded that there are "evident dangers" in "following a policy imposed from above, that can bring to a substantial loss of identity."