Bishop Francis An Shuxin has threatened to withhold the Eucharist from clergy who fail to register with state-sanctioned CCPA
Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Baoding Diocese, China. (File photo)
An international Christian group has condemned a Catholic bishop in China for threatening to withhold the Sacrament of Eucharist for clergy if they do not register with the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).
Bishop Francis An Shuxin of the Diocese of Baoding in Hebei province in northern China issued a pastoral letter July 15 stating that all Catholic clergy are required to register with the CCPA immediately or face punitive measures.
The prelate said he would not share the Eucharist with the priests who are not registered and warned local Catholics that if they refuse to accept priests who are registered with the CCPA they would face the same fate.
In a statement on Aug. 3, US-based International Christian Concern (ICC), said Bishop An’s letter was “a manipulation” of two major agreements signed by the Vatican.
Firstly, the Sino-Vatican Agreement of 2018 over the appointment of bishops in China, the ICC says.
The secretive deal was signed initially for two years and was renewed in 2020. It allows the CCP to have a say in the appointment of Catholic bishops in China, while the Vatican seeks to unify millions of Chinese Catholics split between state-run and Vatican-aligned churches.
Secondly, the Vatican issued a statement in 2019 that encouraged Catholics to register with the state, but warned against any attempt at forcible registration. It urged the Chinese government to respect the “conscientious objectors” to the Vatican-China deal who refuse to join the state-run church.
"At the same time, the Holy See understands and respects the choice of those who, in conscience, decide that they are unable to register under the current conditions," the Vatican said.
The ICC says Bishop An has manipulated the 2019 Vatican statement.
“In his letter, Bishop An manipulated the 2019 statement to make it seem as though the Vatican was commanding all clergy to register with the government in order to force the priests in his diocese to register,” the ICC said.
It reported that some clergy have resented the bishop’s letter exploiting the Vatican statement at the behest of the government.
Francis An Shuxin was consecrated by Bishop Peter Liu Guandong on May 2, 1993, as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Baoding diocese.
He was arrested in 1996 and was released after spending 10 years in prison as a member of the “underground” Church. He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop in 2007, when Bishop James Su Zhimin, the ordinary of the Diocese, was still in jail.Bishop An Shuxin joined the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which split the diocese further between the underground and open communities. With the consent of the government, Bishop An was installed as the head of the Diocese of Baoding in 2010, leading the “Open” community. He was installed as the Bishop of the Diocese of Baoding on August 7, 2010.
Communist China recognizes five religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. However, it has extended state mechanisms to strictly monitor and control religious groups and their activities.
Shortly after the Communist takeover in 1949, China severed diplomatic ties with the Vatican and established the CCPA to exert control over Catholics in the country.
China has an estimated 12 million Catholics, divided between patriotic and independent churches. For years, China and the Vatican have been embroiled in pulling ropes over the appointment of bishops that apparently came to an end with the 2018 deal.
Since the signing of the deal, the Vatican appointed six new bishops and recognized seven ‘illicit’ bishops appointed earlier by China without papal mandates.
Rights groups have documented a renewed crackdown on Catholics in China since the CCP adopted the repressive new regulations of religious affairs in 2018, the same year the Sino-Vatican deal was inked.
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