CNA Staff, Sep 15, 2020 / 12:15 pm
Religious freedom must be the result of any renewed Vatican agreement with China, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom emphasized on Tuesday, noting that underground Catholics in the country remained “persecuted.”
On Monday, Sept. 14, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that a renewal of the Holy See’s 2018 deal with China on the appointment of bishops was likely and would help “normalize the life of the Church” there.
In response, Gary Bauer—a commissioner with USCIRF, a bipartisan federal advisory body—warned Tuesday that the persecution of underground Catholics by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must stop if the Vatican-China deal is renewed.
"Communist China continues to persecute Chinese Catholics. USCIRF hopes any future deal between the Vatican and China is rooted in the protection of religious freedom,” the commission’s Twitter account stated on Tuesday, quoting Bauer and citing Cardinal Parolin’s comments.
The agreement between the Holy See and China was signed on Sept. 22, 2018, and is set to expire in October. The agreement was pursued by the Vatican as a means to unify the Church in China and support the appointment of bishops.
Although text of the arrangement was not released to the public, it has been widely reported that the Chinese Communist Party was given an ability to weigh in on episcopal appointments for the Church in China.
Vatican officials have recently expressed optimism and support for a renewal of the agreement. Parolin said on Monday that the Vatican intends “that [the deal] be prolonged, that we continue to adopt it ad experimentum,” as reported by the Italian news agency AgenSIR.
Catholics in China have long been divided between underground Catholics who remained in full communion with Rome and whose bishops were frequently not acknowledged by the CCP, and members of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), the state-sanctioned church. After the deal was reached in 2018, eight illicitly-ordained bishops of the CPCA were then recognized by the Holy See.