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.”
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.