Sinicization of China Church: the plan in full

15-page document spells out in detail how the church will have to adapt to religion with Chinese characteristics
Sinicization of China Church: the plan in full

Catholic worshippers attend Mass on Holy Saturday, March 31, part of Easter celebrations at Beijing's government-sanctioned South Cathedral. Chinese Catholics are getting ready for the Sinicization of religion. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
China
July 31, 2018
Churches in China are preparing to adapt to the five-year plan to promote Sinicization of the 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 Carrying Forward the Chinese Catholic Church's Adherence to the Direction of 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.

Ucanews.com has obtained the 15-page document, which it translated and reproduced here:

Five-Year Plan on Carrying Forward the Catholic Church's Adherence to the Direction of Sinicization in Our Country (2018-2022)

 

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I. Background

At the Central United Front Work Conference convened in May 2015, General Secretary Xi Jinping clearly stated that for actively guiding religions to adapt to the socialist society, it was necessary to insist on Sinicization. At the National Religious Work Conference in April 2016 and 19th National Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC) in October 2017, Xi further elaborated on adherence to Sinicization in our country.

In December 2016, a resolution of the 9th National Congress of Chinese Catholic Representatives emphasized that in the coming five years, the Catholic Church in China "needs to deepen study on how to carry through the spirit of a series of important addresses by General Secretary Xi Jinping and the spirit of the National Conference on Religious Work, and continuously lead clerics and Catholics across the country to adhere to the Sinicization of Catholicism." 

In recent years, to promote theological study in the Church while insisting on continuing in the direction of Catholic Sinicization, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (CCPA and BCCCC) organized various seminars and forums and published relevant books in order to deeply deliberate on ways of developing the Catholic Church in China. Some local Patriotic Associations and Catholic Administration Commission (PA & CAC) and dioceses also organized seminars discussing Sinicization of Catholicism, helping the Church develop an ideological ambiance in this area.

Currently, in regard to complying with Sinicization, clerics and the intellectual stratum have an improved understanding.  But ordinary Catholics do not always accurately understand its implications and goals. In certain areas, for example the liturgy of the Church, the achievement of Sinicization is more fruitful. But in regard to theological thought, Sinicization of Catholicism still lacks innovative exploration in the context of current social conditions and culture in China. Due to bias and misinterpretation, there are still differing viewpoints within the Church on adherence to Sinicization.  

For the sake of propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people in the world, Paul the Apostle put in practice the idea: "I have become all things to all men." (1 Cor 9:22). From an historical point of view, the healthy development of Catholicism in our country and the Church's adaptation to the social culture are consistent. But there have been both positive and negative sides that can be referenced on achieving this aspect.

After the Second Vatican Council, enculturation among the Churches of the world cultivated a new way for the local development of the Catholic Church. In our country, adherence to Sinicization of Catholicism is of great significance.  The Church in China has been striving to adapt to the socialist society with Chinese characteristics and has had great achievements on evangelization and pastoral work in the new China, especially during the four decades of reform and opening up. As our country has entered into a new era of development, there is an urgency to shore-up foundations for the development of the Church in our country's social culture by pushing Sinicization of Catholicism to a greater depth. To do this, we have to be problem solving-oriented, focus on the study of theological thought and build up a model for realizing the Sinicization of Catholicism. 

 

II. Directive thoughts, major goal and basic content

1. Directive thoughts

Take guidance from the thoughts of socialism with Chinese Characteristics in Xi Jinping's new era, particularly the spirit of his speech on the adherence to the direction on Sinicization of religions in our country, led by the core values of socialism, according to the direction and path of Sinicization clearly identified by the 9th National Congress of Chinese Catholic Representatives. By getting a firm hold on the Bible, inheriting of traditions and following the views and documents of the Second Vatican Council, the theological discussion on the Sinicization of Catholicism will be constantly promoted and the practice of Sinicization of Catholicism will be gradually enriched.

2. Major goal

There is a need to increase the perception and recognition of Sinicization of Catholicism within the Church in order to push forward mutual adaptation between the Catholic Church and the socialist society. Clerics and Catholics must be led to implement the core values of socialism as well as to strengthen their own base to push forward with evangelization and pastoral work. The Catholic Church is to play an active role in the enhancement of socio-economic development and contribute to realizing the dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

It will further explore the content of doctrines and rules of the Church that are conducive to social harmony and progress of human civilization by interpreting doctrines and rules of the Church in line with the development and progress of contemporary China and Chinese traditional culture. Constantly consolidate harmonious relations between our country's Catholic Church and the Party, government, society, other religions and non-believers.

3. Basic content

For adhering to Sinicization of Catholicism, it is necessary to have political self-consciousness and self-awareness. To love the motherland and obey the state regime is a responsibility and obligation for each Christian. Core political requirements are acceptance of the leadership of the Communist Party of China, supporting the socialist system and safeguarding constitutional and legal authorities.

For Sinicization of Catholicism, it is necessary to have self-consciousness on cultural integration. To realize the core values of socialism and accept the nourishment of distinguished Chinese traditional culture, the Church should promote Chinese styles and integrate with Chinese culture in the proposition of theological ideas, expression of social rituals and in Church building, painting, music and art.   

There is also a need to have self-consciousness on adaptation to society. To adapt and serve society, and to fulfill one's social responsibility, the Catholic Church has to launch its works in accordance with the law, safeguard the Church's legal rights, carry forward the Catholic spirit of being the ‘salt and light' of the world, explore and expand new ways of serving society, promoting social harmony and mutually building a beautiful China.

 

III. Deepening political, legal and social recognition of the Catholic Church in China

The Church will guide clerics and ordinary Catholics to actively practice core values of socialism, love the motherland passionately, support the leadership of the Communist Party, obey the law and serve society.

1. Carrying out promotion and education on socialism with Chinese characteristics and the core values of socialism

a. Learn and realize socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics in Xi Jinping's new era through various methods of promotion, including visits, study and exchanges. This will strengthen self-confidence of clerics and Catholics on the road forward by proposing theories on the system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Through this process it is possible to learn that love of country and the Church, based on healthy development of the Catholic Church and the motherland's prosperity, are consistent.

b. The Church will regard promotion and education on core values of socialism as a basic requirement for adhering to the Sinicization of Catholicism. It will guide clerics and Catholics to foster and maintain correct views on history and the nation and strengthen community awareness.

c. To realize the constitution and work regulations of the patriotic association, strengthen and improve the organization of the patriotic associations across the country, and play a better role of bridges and ties among patriotic organizations. 

2. Insist on the principle of independence, autonomy and self-management of the Church

a. Through exploration, study, organizing memorial activities, editing and publishing reviews and research documents by the leadership team of the CCPA & BCCCC, education on the independence, autonomy and self-management of the Church can be consistently implemented.

 b. The CCPA & BCCCC is to offer guidance and supervision to all colleges of philosophy and theology to establish courses on independence, autonomy and self-management of the Church and revise the "Teaching Materials for Independence, Autonomy and Self-Management of the Catholic Church in China" so that the teaching materials can play a positive role.

c. It is necessary to conduct foreign exchanges on the basis of equality and friendship, so as to fully illustrate the stories of the Catholic Church in China, clearly explaining the connotation and essence of the direction of Sinicization adhered to by the Catholic Church in China as well as eliminating misunderstandings and suspicions 3. Strengthening concepts and education on the rule of law and striving for understanding and support.

3. Strengthening concepts and education on the rule of law

a. Through different formats, deepen study on the newly revised "Regulations on Religious Affairs" at various levels and organize regular training on government policies and regulations. Guide clerics and Catholics to dedicate themselves consciously to establish the state's rule of law.  Strengthen awareness of the state, civil consciousness and legal matters. Correctly understand and deal with the relationship between the laws of the state and the rules of the Church.

b. Deepen study on ‘thesis and exploration' of practices, uphold Church morality and teachings that promote integration with socialist morality and the rule of law. Promote integration between Church ethics and morality and Chinese traditional virtues, combining the spirit of the times with the requirements of social development. The Catholic faith should play a positive role in moral governing of the country.     

c. Strengthen education on the rule of law in institutes of philosophy and theology by including it in the curriculum and offer courses such as ‘legal foundations'. Religious policies and regulations should enhance seminarians' legal knowledge and consciousness on obeying the law.

4. Playing an active role on enhancing economic and social development

a. Uphold the Church's distinguished tradition on serving society, unite and lead general clerics and Catholics to integrate and serve contemporary Chinese society and fulfill their social responsibilities.

b. In areas where Catholics live together, vigorously build healthy religious relations, jointly maintain public order and good customs, promote economic and social development and build a beautiful China.

c. Under the coordination and leadership of CCPA and the BCCCC, clerics and Catholics should be encouraged to actively engage in charitable activities, improve standardization of Church charity activities and enhance environmental awareness.

 

IV. Promote the integration of Catholicism with distinguished Chinese culture

The Church, in order to foster cultural consciousness and self-confidence in being Chinese, should enrich expression of Christian faith with our distinguished humanistic traditions. Sum up the experience of Sinicization in the history of our Church and open up visionary study on the history of the Church in China.

1. Develop the Church's knowledge and recognition of Chinese traditional

a. Through various means increase the Church's knowledge on Chinese traditional culture, foster consciousness and self-confidence in being Chinese, integrate Chinese traditional ethics and morality into Christ's Gospel spirit and enhance the Church's faith so it takes root in the Chinese humanities.

b. Increase the content of Chinese traditional culture in catechumen classes and catechist teachings in dioceses and parishes so that the gospel faith and Chinese traditional culture can be organically integrated into the daily life of Christians.

c. Strive to foster a pool of research talent and seminary teachers with higher theological attainments and profound Chinese cultural understanding.

d. Seminary courses are to pay attention to the teaching of Chinese traditional culture and philosophy, fostering seminarians in ways of Chinese thinking and culture in regard to preaching the Church's truth on the gospel.

2. Develop perspectives on the history of the Catholic Church in China

a. Establish Chinese Catholic historical archives as a starting point, widely collecting historical documents, materials and files of the Catholic Church before and after the founding of the People's Republic of China. Such archives are to summarize the experience of Sinicization since Catholicism was propagated in China and foster the study of Church history from the perspectives of the Catholic Church in China.  

b. By using adherence to the direction of the Sinicization of Catholicism as the lead, organize experts on Church history to compile and publish "The History of Catholic Church in China".

c. Study and learn from the Sinicization experience of other religions in the history of China, achieving self-improvement through comparative research.

 

V. Develop theological thought with the Chinese church characteristics

Collect and study historical documents about the Sinicization of the Church; starting with the Bible, Church traditions and documents of Second Vatican Council, to absorb relevant thinking and achievements of the Universal Church as a foundation for theological discussion and illustration of the Sinicization of Catholicism. Develop theological expressions that have the characteristics of Chinese thought, paying attention to the establishment of a research platform and team.

Collect, sort and summarize relevant documents and information on how Catholicism in our country adapted to socialist society, after the founding of the New China, to allow systematic deliberation.

1. Summarizing the experiences and thoughts on Sinicization of Catholicism in the history of the Church in China

a. To collect and sort out the documents related to Sinicization of Catholicism since Catholicism was propagated to China, especially from late Ming and early Qing dynasties to the period before the new China was founded, summarizing the process and experience on Sinicization of Catholicism;

b. Collect, sort and summarize relevant documents and information on how Catholicism in our country adapted to socialist society, after the founding of the New China, to allow systematic deliberation

c. Led by the CCPA and the BCCCC, and using adherence to direction on Sinicization of Catholicism in our country as the theme, edit and publish "The Textbook on Adhering to the Direction of the Sinicization of Catholicism in Our Country".

2. Deepen study of theological thought on the enculturation of the Universal Church

a. Highly regarding the biblical hermeneutics and biblical theology, consistently return to the Bible to draw inspiration and motivation.

b. Use the history and traditions of the Universal Church, especially based on the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and relevant knowledge in the Church, as a starting point.

c. Study and learn from the ideas and practical experience of the Church around the world on the launching of ecclesial enculturation after the Second Vatican Council.  

3. Theological thought and expression of the Catholic Church in China

a. Launch a comparative study of Catholic theology and Chinese philosophical ideas, strengthen dialogue between religions, integrate the life experiences of Chinese and Christians as well as enriching and innovating theological expression of the Church.

b. Beyond the metaphysical and ontological structures of the traditional theology of the Church, try a way of thinking that has the characteristics of Chinese culture and preferences on ethics, and harmony between man and nature, for exploring theological thought that embraces Chinese wisdom.

c. Pay attention to the beliefs and spiritual experiences of grassroots believers in today's society; strengthen the connection between the theories and practices of Catholic Chinese theology and promote excellent research and ideas to the Institute of Philosophy and local churches.

4. Strengthen the Church's establishment of a platform and team on theological research

a. Continue to hold biyearly "The Theological Forum on the Sinicization of Catholicism", explore new formats, strive to develop the highest echelon of theological forum for the Catholic Church in China; organize seminars on specific topics for discussing the issues encountered during the process of the Sinicization of Catholicism;

b. Establish "The Institute of Chinese Catholic Culture" to bring together scholars who study Catholicism, from both inside and outside of the Church, to form a primary research team.

 

VI. Create a Church organization and management model with the Chinese characteristics

Deepen the concept of democratic management of the Church and adhere to the principle of "collective leadership, democratic management, mutual consultation, and joint decision-making" with the aim of optimizing the structure of organization and management. This will enhance awareness of organization and management and target actual problems, thereby progressing organizational and management systems through innovation and the fostering of talented people.

1. Deepen the concept and knowledge of democratic management of the Church

a. Through research, seminars or symposiums summarize the experience and achievements of the Catholic Church in China in adhering to the democratic management of the Church after China implemented reform and opening policies. Regard the democratic management of the Church as an important measure for the Sinicization of Catholicism.

b. Strengthen study and introduce discussion of the Second Vatican Council on "People of God" and "Laity". Let the lay people play active roles in the pastoral work of evangelization and management of the Church.

c. Continue to explore the relationship between the hierocracy and democratic management of the Church, emphasizing the nature of service and promoting organic unity between the two sides.

2. Improving the system of organization and management

a. Address problems in accordance with the newly revised "Religious Affairs Regulations", and revise "Work Regulations for the Catholic Patriotic Association", "The System for the Joint Conference of Chairpersons of the CCPA-BCCCC" and "A Management System for Catholic Dioceses in China."    

b. In accordance with the principle of democratic management of the Church, the division of responsibilities among the Patriotic Association, Church Administration Commission and the dioceses should be clarified so that they may clearly identify their respective attributes, functions and tasks, and formulate their operational modes and working rules.

c. Explore and study the status quo of the organizational establishment in local Catholic PA & CAC organizations to help them resolve actual development problems they face.

d. Strengthen the rule of law and standardization of Church organization and management, promote and coordinate the registration of Church groups, Church activity venues, as well as colleges of theology and philosophy, with the civil affairs department in accordance with the law.

e. Increase efforts on training the backbone of lay people in the patriotic organizations and raise the proportion of lay people playing roles in the patriotic organizations.

 

VII. Explore liturgical expression with Chinese elements

To grasp the traditional spirit of Church liturgy, especially the documents of Second Vatican Council on reform and enculturation of liturgy; explore the feasibility of integrating traditional Chinese ceremonial culture and its elements into Church liturgy. Prudently select some churches to launch a pilot project on the Sinicization of Church liturgy.

1. Summarize Sinicization of Church liturgy in history and real situations

a. The Church liturgy is ancient and sacred. It needs to grasp its essence, from aspects of theology and history, for the exploring of views on the Sinicization of Church liturgy.

b. Collect, analyze and study Church liturgy after Catholicism came to China, which was known as the state of rites. Clarify the key aspects of Sinicization of Catholic liturgy so as to obtain inspiration for liturgical reform of the Catholic Church in China.

c. By organizing specific seminars, summarize successful and failed past results on liturgical reform launched by the Catholic Church in China, including in relation to the Chinese Church throughout the world, since the Second Vatican Council advocated liturgical reform. This will provide the latest experience for formulating a plan for the Sinicization of the Church liturgy.

2. Explore the Church's liturgical expression in Chinese ritual culture

a. The CCPA and the BCCCC plan to release a pastoral letter and a guiding booklet on liturgy, trying to use some wordings that would be in conformity with the gospel spirit of Christ and Church traditions, and also include Chinese traditional features on liturgy for enhancing exchanges and mutual enrichment of both sides.

b. In the education of liturgy in colleges of philosophy and theology, and formation classes and seminars on liturgy, the content of Chinese ritual culture and history of liturgy should be increased to expand understandings on Chinese traditional rites.

c. Gather the Church's experts on liturgy to organize advanced study courses to promote the exploration of the Sinicization of the Church's liturgy and establish a consultative group to present scenarios to the CACC and BCCCC.

d. In accordance with local conditions, specific traditions should be highly regarded in the regions of ethnic minorities and some Church liturgies that have ethnic characteristics should be cultivated.

3. Select some places to prudently launch pilot projects on Sinicization of Church liturgy

a. In the form of pastoral letters, the CCPA and the BCCCC will provide general principles and advice on some important issues related to liturgy.

b. With the guidance and supervision of the CCPA and BCCCC, some parishes, especially in colleges of philosophy and theology, would try to launch some liturgies with the elements of Sinicization, and would be promoted to the which country when it is determined that they do not violate the general principles and requirements of Church liturgy and would not cause any conflicts and disputes within the Church in China;

c. Certain dioceses and parishes are encouraged to try new innovations on liturgies to respond to their needs and problems, but they should avoid launching liturgical reform radically and blindly. Unwillingness for any changes should also be countered.

 

VIII. Promote Church styles and creation of painting and sacred music with the Chinese aesthetical features

The view that styles of church structures, painting and sacred music must be westernized should be changed.  The concept of Sinicization should be advocated to explore ways of integrating elements of Chinese traditional aesthetics.

1. Changing the views that Church structures, painting and sacred music must be westernized

a. Collect, sort and study the heritage of the church's architectural structures, art of painting and sacred music since Catholicism was propagated in China. Combining the spiritual characteristics of the Catholic faith, explore new Chinese formats, Chinese styles, and Chinese characteristics and transform the preference and concept that all forms must be westernized.

b. In the process of formation in colleges of philosophy and theology, the concepts on Sincization of church architectural structures, painting and sacred music should be promoted by offering relevant courses for forming consensus on the Sinicization of Church art.

c. Dioceses and parishes should organize relevant workshops to help Catholics increase their knowledge of Chinese traditional art and aesthetics. 

d. Models of Sinicization should be established in church architectural structures, painting and sacred music. Organize on-site exchanges and encourage the design and construction of churches that may have Chinese-Western, traditional Chinese or ethnic styles

e. Regular exhibitions and performances of Sinicized Church paintings and Church music should be held across the country in recognition of outstanding achievements.

2. Explore ways of Sinicizing Church structures, painting and sacred music

a. Exploring ways of Sinicizing Church architectural structures, painting and sacred music will facilitate the addition of Chinese aesthetic elements to the design of new churches, trial of traditional Chinese painting techniques and preference for Chinese styles in the creation of music.

b. Promotion of the Chinese concept on unity of humanity and nature does not only relate to Chinese architectural styles, but also presents the sacredness of Western church structures. This adds the Chinese human compassion and artistic realm to the creation of holy paintings and the natural spirit of ethnic music in the creation of the Church music.

c. Incorporating elements of Chinese traditional culture, conforming to the ecumenism of the Universal Church and meeting the requirements of the Church liturgy, the Church would advance with the times to promote the styles of Church structures, painting and sacred music according to the principle of diversity and stability during the process of Sinicization.

3. Projecting Sinicization of Church architectural structures, painting and sacred music

a. Fostering a team of Catholic architects and artists with theological and ethical foundations, as well as artistic talent, to form an expert team could provide a consultation service.

b. Based on the National Seminary of the Catholic Church in China, the "Chinese Catholic Music and Art Training Center" will be established; the CCPA and BCCCC will perform the leading work on compiling a collection of hymns with the Chinese Catholic characteristics.

c. The CCPA and BCCCC will encourage the local Church to strive for the Sinicization of church architectural structures and the creation of Church painting and sacred music. Some places may start pilot projects that could be extensively expanded.

 

IX. Organization and implementation

1. Strengthening the leadership on organization

Sincization of Catholicism is inseparable from effective organization. The CCPA & BCCCC of the Catholic Church in China must take the primary responsibility to set up a leading group to coordinate the exploration and realization of the Sinicization of Catholicism across the country. It should be problem-oriented to identify certain special topics and form expert groups to find breakthrough solutions.

The provinces and autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, the PA & CAC, dioceses and the colleges of philosophy and theology should establish relevant mechanisms led by the responsible persons to promote Sinicization of Catholicism, eliminate misunderstandings and implement concepts. According to this plan, the Catholic PA and CAC of the provinces (as well autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government), dioceses and the various colleges of philosophy and theology shall formulate their respective five-year working plans for the Sinicization of Catholicism according to their own circumstances.

2. Strengthening supervision, inspection and evaluation of the implementation of the plan

In accordance with targets set by the plan, special inspections on the work will be carried out and the fulfillment of conditions will be checked regularly to determine the crux of problems and solve them.

Individuals and groups that make outstanding contributions will be commended according to certain evaluation criteria.

3. Strengthening publicity and exchange activities

The CCPA and BCCCC, or the media run by local churches, will promote the ideas and achievements of Sinicization of Catholicism in our country and publish relevant books and articles to create favorable conditions for the implementation of the plan.

At the level of the CCPA and BCCCC, training courses, seminars or forums will be organized to exchange experiences and ideas for unifying understanding and building consensus.

The local Catholic PA and CAC, dioceses and colleges of philosophy and theology will be encouraged to organize regular seminars for sharing and exchanging experiences to promote Sinicization at the grassroots level.

In the Church's foreign exchanges, the basic ideas and practices of adhering to the direction on the Sinicization of Catholicism in our country should be vigorously presented while striving for understanding and the elimination of misinterpretations to the greatest possible extent.

One key to adhering to the Sinicization of Catholicism lies in the formation and construction of the research team. From the very beginning, it is necessary to link the process of the Sinicization of Catholicism in our country with the forging and construction of the theological research team within the Church. The exploration of Sinicization of Catholicism should refer to relevant research results of other religions and academic circles. The research team of the Church should learn from what they have done in these aspects to constantly consolidate harmonious foundations between our country's Catholic Church and the Party, government, society, other religions and non-believers. The CCPA and BCCCC or the media run by local Church will promote the ideas and achievements of adhering to the direction on the Sinicization of Catholicism in our country, and publish relevant books and articles to create favorable conditions for the implementation of the plan.

To read the ucanews.com translation of the Protestant five-year plan for Chinese Christianity click here.

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