A petition issued by Hong Kong and overseas Catholics has been emailed to bishops' conferences worldwide asking that they support lobbying to halt the proposed deal on bishops' appointments between the Vatican and China. The online petition also asks for a global joint signature in the hope the Holy See will rethink the agreement and stop making an "irreversible and regrettable" mistake. The petition and an open letter were jointly initiated and signed by Catholic university professors, lecturers, researchers, human rights advocates and lawyers. As well as Hong Kong, some live in the United States, Britain and other countries. "We are a group of Catholics. Recently there have been news reports indicating that the Holy See and the government of the People's Republic of China will soon reach an agreement over the issue of bishop appointments as well as recognition of seven illicit 'bishops'," the petition said. "We are deeply shocked and disappointed. With our love and allegiance to the Holy Mother Church, we hope you and the bishops' conferences would pay attention to such a development. "The seven illicitly ordained 'bishops' were not appointed by the pope, and their moral integrity is questionable. They do not have the trust of the faithful and have never repented publicly. If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and a schism would be created in the church in China. "We fully understand that the Holy See is eager to be able to evangelize in China more effectively. However, we are deeply worried that the deal would create damage that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control
over the church." Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, one of the initiators and an associate professor in politics and international relations at Hong Kong Baptist University, told ucanews.com: "I personally feel deeply troubled because the agreement is quite different from the beliefs and principles of the church and of the appointment of bishops." He claimed there is no real freedom of religion in China — despite religion being openly practiced by hundreds of millions of people — and that the violation of religious freedom has become more serious in recent years under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. "The Vatican's secretary of state said the bird cage would be a bit larger, but we primarily see the authorities are just tightening their control," he said, referring to a recent newspaper article
interviewing Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Chan said a group of Catholic professionals had decided to voice their concerns before another round of negotiations between China and the Vatican. They decided to issue the open letter to global bishops' conferences and launch the joint signature campaign worldwide to draw attention to the issue. "Religious freedom on the mainland and the situation of the Catholic Church in China are matters of concern to Catholics in Hong Kong. We, as Catholics, could not just sweep them under the carpet and turn a blind eye to them," he said. He said the letter had been sent to bishops' conferences around the world, including the United States, Europe and South America. Anthony Lam Sui-ki
, senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre of Hong Kong, told ucanews.com that it is understandable that Hong Kongers worry about the agreement but it is wrong to think "the Holy Father is going to betray the church in China." He added that an agreement on the appointment of bishops is very important to the Holy See because "they have to make sure they get a guarantee from the China side that no more people unacceptable to the Vatican are made bishops. They are trying to do something to stop that abnormal situation."