A file image of Chinese Catholics receiving the Eucharist during a Christmas Eve Mass at a church in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. (Photo by China Out/AFP)
The Vatican is still planning to interfere in affairs of the Catholic Church in China, a provincial religious affairs official told local Catholic representatives at a government seminar.
And some adherents of the faith had lost their minds, according to the Hubei Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee seminar held in the wake of the Vatican recently signing a provisional agreement with Beijing covering aspects of church-state relations.
It was made clear to representatives of the Catholic Affairs Center in the province that the government believed the Vatican's policy of meddling in China had not been abandoned.
The seminar was held in Wuhan city of Hubei province Oct. 8 to 11, less than a month after the Vatican-China deal was reached.
More than 80 priests, nuns and lay representatives from the province participated.
The Hubei Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee deputy director, Xiong Huaqi, spoke on the requirements of newly revised 'Regulations on Religious Affairs'.
Xiong asked Catholics in the province to properly regulate their religious activities and safeguard the government's interests.
He said this should be done in the spirit of the most recent National Congress of the Communist Party of China that stressed Sinicization of the church.
The thrust of Sinicization is that foreign influences must be minimized in favor of adopting Chinese cultural characteristics.
PowerPoint slides prepared by Xiong included one stating that notwithstanding the provisional agreement, the "Vatican's attempt to interfere with our Catholic affairs has not changed."
It further asserted that advocacy by the Vatican and negative speeches would not stop, only become "more subtle and more diversified in the future."
The PowerPoint presentation accused some Catholics of having "lost their minds" as they did not know what flag to be loyal to.
They were "confused" over the principle of the church in China having to be self-administered and independent of foreign pressures.
Further, reference was made to divisions in parishes, including in relation to property disputes.
Father Paul, of Hebei province, told ucanews.com that the content of the slide presentation was ridiculous since the Catholic Church has its own hierarchy, headed by the pope.
He queried why the Holy See signed the provisional agreement, which covers issues such as the appointment of bishops.
"The government has no sincerity, shown by the contents of this training class," Father Paul said of the inflammatory Hubei province seminar.
He was worried that authorities would in future be even more rigorous in seeking to control Catholics.
The priest said the overly defensive and suspicious attitude of Chinese authorities also gave rise to the issue of why Beijing signed the provisional agreement in the first place.
A joint statement was issued by the Bishop's Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the pro-government Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) soon after its Sept. 22 signing.
This statement repeated well-worn jargon, particularly the importance of the church being patriotic and adapting to China's "socialist society" under the leadership of the Communist Party to achieve national rejuvenation.
Father Paul believed that the Vatican should see the true face of the Chinese regime.
"Their ultimate goal is to eliminate all religion," he said.
"No religion can be an exception."
The priest also said that since the newly revised Regulations on Religious Affairs were implemented, difficulties faced by the Chinese Church had become more severe.