La Civiltà Cattolica launches Chinese edition

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The Catholic periodical La Civiltà Cattolica will now be published in simplified Chinese, in what its publishers say is an attempt at establishing a better relationship with the Chinese people. 

The Jesuit magazine announced the new language edition in a press release on April 21. 

"This initiative is also offered as a gesture of friendship, given the increasingly important role that China plays in our contemporary world within the global context," said the statement. 

La Civiltà Cattolica is celebrating its 170th anniversary this year. The publication was founded by Italian members of the Society of Jesus and all pieces are written by Jesuits. 

With the addition of simplified Chinese, La Civiltà Cattolica is now published in six different languages. 

"The Chinese edition of La Civiltà Cattolica contributes to making our magazine more and truly international," said the statement. 

"For some years now its writers – all Jesuits – from different countries and continents have offered unique and original contributions. Since 2017 the review has been published in five languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Korean; now a Chinese edition is available."

The statement also noted that Pope Francis has praised the publication for its one-of-a-kind nature. 

"In his message to the journal, Pope Francis wrote that he hoped that in its pages, 'the voices of many different frontiers might be heard.' The same Pontiff has also described the journal as 'unique in its genre,'" the statement said. 

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in a March 27 letter to La Civiltà Cattolica, praised the decision to launch the Chinese edition. 

"I can only express from the depths of my heart my warmest best wishes and the fervent hope that your Chinese language edition might become a solid instrument of mutual cultural and scientific enrichment, among all people in search of beauty and truth," said Parolin. 

"Thus, I hope, that the publications will be edited and prepared with dedication and read with interest, having as the ultimate goal, collaboration in the construction of an authentic civilization of open dialogue and lasting peace among all the peoples of the world," he added.

In February 2018, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, an Argentinian, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised China for its supposed dedication to facets of Catholic social teaching. 

In an interview with Vatican Insider, he said that "at this moment, those who best realize the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese."

Sorondo told Vatican Insider that he had recently visited China, where he says he found that "they [the Chinese] seek the common good, subordinate things to the general good."

"I found an extraordinary China; what people do not know is that the central Chinese principle is 'work, work, work.' ...As Paul said: 'he who does not work, who does not eat.' You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not have drugs. There is a positive national consciousness, they want to show that they have changed, they already accept private property," he said of his trip.

The bishop said that the People's Republic of China has "defended the dignity of the human person," and, in the area of climate change, is "assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned."

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At the time of Sorondo's comments, hundreds of thousands of members of China's Uighur population were detained due to their religion. 

Also in 2018, the Holy See and the Chinese government made a provisional agreement in 2018 on the appointment of bishops in the state-sponsored Church, the terms of which have still not been publicly released. In the wake of the deal, previously excommunicated bishops of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which is overseen by the Communist Party, were received into full communion with the Vatican. 

The launch of the magazine's Chinese edition comes during a period of evolving relations between the Church and China.

China is home to more than ten million Catholics, with six million registered as members of the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, according to official statistics. Millions of Catholics belong to the underground Church, which, unlike the CPCA, is not overseen by the Communist Party and has always been in communion with the Holy See.

A January 2020 report of the U.S. China Commission found that Chinese Catholics suffered "increasing persecution" after the deal, where the government was "demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy." Priests and bishops have reportedly been detained or have gone into hiding.

In November 2019, the head of the state-sponsored CPCA, Bishop John Fang Xingyao, said that Catholics in the country must put their loyalty to the state before the faith.

"Love for the homeland must be greater than the love for the Church and the law of the country is above canon law," said Fang.

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That same month, Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin, a leader in the Chinese underground Church, refused to register with the government. According to Asia News, he was placed under the supervision of two state security officials and visited daily in an attempt to force him to sign an act of registration with the state. He escaped a few days later and is reportedly in hiding.

In early April, religious freedom publication Bitter Winter reported that communist authorities in China are using efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic to step up enforcement action against Christians who worship in house churches.

According to the journalist An Xin, the city of Nenjiang, in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, has offered incentives to residents for reporting their neighbors if they are known or suspected to host religious services in their homes. 

On February 20, the city's coronavirus control group, which was created by the Chinese government, released an order that specifically banned providing a location for "illegal religious activities."

The coronavirus control group said that this was designed to prevent further people from contracting COVID-19. If a house church was discovered, it would be "resolutely shut down," per the report in Bitter Winter. 

Residents of Nenjiang were offered a reward of 5,000 RMB (about $700 U.S.) if they reported suspected illegal religious activity to the authorities.

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