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Chinese churches get ready for Sinicization

Dioceses asked to submit their own five-year plans for religion compatible with a socialist society reporter, Hong Kong reporter, Hong Kong

Updated: July 23, 2018 04:45 AM GMT
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Chinese churches get ready for Sinicization

Bishop Peter Luo Xuegang of Yibin in Sichuan province presides over a meeting about the five-year Sinicization plan at Naxi Tianhua Hotel on June 29. (Photo from CCPA website)

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Churches in two Chinese provinces have held training seminars on the five-year plan to promote Sinicization of the Chinese Catholic Church.

The Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) issued the Five-Year Plan on Promoting the Chinese Catholic Church's Adherence to Sinicization (2018-22) in June to all dioceses, asking them to formulate and report their own five-year plans to the CCPA and BCCCC before the end of August. has obtained the 15-page document, which has 6,500 words and nine major points. The word "Sinicization" is mentioned 72 times in the text.

Churches in all dioceses of Hebei province and in Yibin Diocese of Sichuan province have already held training seminars.

A source in Hebei province told that he attended a media training course in Chengde from June 25-29.

He believes that the CCPA and BCCCC issued the plan in response to the central government's policy. "It is to complete the Chinese-style socialist road within five years," he said. "Even if they do not get approval from the Holy See, they will still get trust from the government."

He said Sinicization could also be applied to Sino-Vatican negotiations. "China and the Vatican can establish diplomatic relations regardless of the conditions, and the mainland can still tighten its grip on the church with its plan."

Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Sinicization had become an unavoidable mission for all religions in China since President Xi Jinping proposed the plan in 2015.

Ying believes that the five major religions of Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Daoism and Buddhism feel it is necessary to take the issue seriously, unlike when former president Jiang Zemin proposed to make religion compatible with a socialist society.

He told that the central government proposed three important directions for Sinicization — political identity, social identity and cultural identity — so the Catholic five-year plan was an extended discussion of these three aspects.

"Because the central government's main concern for the Sinicization of religion is not cultural, but political and social, how to make the interpretation of the progress of the times from Catholic theology and doctrine will be the main focus," he said.

Ying said the plan aimed for Sinicization to be incorporated into the localization of the universal church and the context of Vatican II.

He also pointed out the plan stated that the history of Chinese Catholicism was also a way forward by learning lessons from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

"If you have a bad relationship with an imperial power and tradition, you will have the consequences of prohibition. Matteo Ricci took the adaptation route to establish the basis for religious Sinicization of the 21st century."

Ying said the unique system of Chinese Catholicism, with democratic management of the church, CCPA and BCCCC, established its legitimacy under the name of Sinicization.

Sinicization is the Communist Party's effort to strengthen its control of religions in terms of ideology and system. Politically, religion must be in line with the party's socialist core values, conform to Chinese society and be compatible with traditional Chinese culture, he said.

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