Communist official tells state-approved religious bodies to focus on the election and consecration of bishops
A file image of Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming. Pope Francis last year lifted the excommunication of Bishop Ma and six other bishops who were appointed by the Chinese state without a pontifical mandate. (ucanews.com photo)
The president of China's state-sanctioned bishops' conference has pledged to work with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) to develop the Sinicization of religion in the communist nation.
Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming was speaking after Wang Zuoan, deputy minister of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), visited the CCPA and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) in Beijing.
Bishop Ma said the CCPA and BCCCC would live up to the trust of the Communist Party and the government.
"In the new year, they will work hard, unite as one heart, think seriously, strive to practice, work according to the situation, and continue to make greater and better progress on the path of the development of Sinicization for gaining a satisfactory result for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China," he said.
On his visit to Beijing, Wang said work on the election and consecration of bishops and the transformation of underground bishops must be done well.
He called on the CCPA and BCCCC to "maintain a high sense of responsibility and mission and lead the mass believers of the Catholic Church to continue to study through Xi Jinping's new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics."
They should also "make progress on the road of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the church and operating the church democratically."
Wang said it is necessary to constantly explore and practice the direction of Sinicization and to strengthen the revision and improvement of systems, while it is important to "let the five-star red flag fly high in church courtyards."
It is also necessary to formulate a plan for managing dioceses appropriately to increase the intensity of self-establishment and the construction of grassroots patriotic organizations and personnel training, he said.
Wang and other UFWD officials were welcomed by Bishop Ma, BCCCC and CCPA standing vice-president Bishop Joseph Shen Bin and CCPA vice-chairman and secretary-general Liu Yuanlong.
Bishop Ma, 53, was ordained as a bishop in 2006 without a papal mandate.
In 2010, he was elected president of the bishops' conference and vice-chairman of the CCPA. Neither organization is recognized by the Vatican.
On Sept. 22, 2018, Pope Francis lifted the excommunication of Bishop Ma and six other bishops appointed by the Chinese government without a pontifical mandate. That came a few hours after the Vatican and the Chinese government had signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops.
The pope's forgiveness was seen as part of the process toward healing the Chinese Church. "Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics," the Vatican said in a statement.
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