UCA News
Benedict Rogers

Vatican should not honor Shanghai's fake bishop

There are those who courageously put their faith and values first, and do not sell their souls to a brutal, atheist regime
Published: May 24, 2024 11:05 AM GMT

Updated: May 24, 2024 11:05 AM GMT

A worshiper waves the flag of China as Pope Francis leaves following a weekly general audience on June 12, 2019, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

A worshiper waves the flag of China as Pope Francis leaves following a weekly general audience on June 12, 2019, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the Vatican hosted a prominent mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s propaganda in the heart of Rome.

Beijing-appointed Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Shanghai, who was unilaterally installed a year ago by Chinese authorities without the pope’s approval at the time, in flagrant breach of the Vatican-China agreement on the appointment of bishops, was given a platform at a Vatican conference alongside Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Bishop Shen is president of the Council of Chinese Bishops, a state-approved bishops’ conference not currently recognized by the Vatican. He was previously vice-president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, established by the CCP and under the control of the CCP’s United Front Work Department.

Speaking to a packed audience in the Pontifical Urban University, on Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica, this agent of Xi Jinping’s regime called on Chinese people to “free themselves from the control of foreign powers” and for the Catholic Church in China to follow Xi Jinping’s campaign of “Sinicization” of religion.

Earlier last year, the bishop had made similar remarks, calling on the Church to “align” its teachings with the CCP’s ideology. “Sinicization is a directional issue,” he said, “a signpost and a direction to adapt to the socialist society as well as an inherent rule and a fundamental requirement for the survival and development of the Catholic Church in China itself.”

Yet according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2024 report, religious freedom in China deteriorated further last year as the government intensified its implementation of its “Sinicization” policy, which “requires groups to follow the CCP’s Marxist interpretation of religion, including by altering religious scriptures and doctrines to conform to that interpretation.”

"Not a single speaker spoke about the severe persecution of Christians across China"

Other speakers alongside Bishop Shen at the Pontifical Urban University on May 21 included Professor Zheng Xiaojun, the director of the Institute of World Religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, who assured that religious freedom is upheld in China.

But all of this is a lie.

Not a single speaker spoke the truth about the human rights crisis in China. Not a single speaker talked about the severe persecution of Christians across China, the forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, the atrocities in Tibet, the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms, the crackdown on human rights defenders across China, or the continuing genocide of the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs.

Not a single speaker spoke out for Catholic bishops who have been jailed or disappeared in China, such as Wenzhou’s Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin or Baoding’s long-disappeared Bishop James Su Zhimin. No one raised the plight of Protestant pastor Wang Yi, who is serving a nine-year jail sentence.

No one asked where the Panchen Lama was or what the conditions of release were for Christian citizen journalist, lawyer, and whistle-blower Zhang Zhan, who was arrested and jailed four years ago for reporting on COVID-19 in Wuhan and freed this week.

No one called for the release of 76-year-old Catholic entrepreneur and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, a British citizen, imprisoned and on trial in Hong Kong simply for defending human rights. And, of course, no one spoke in support of Hong Kong’s courageous 92-year-old Bishop Emeritus Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was arrested two years ago and, though not in jail, is under regular surveillance and threat.

How can this be? Has the Vatican unwittingly and naively sold its soul and been co-opted into the CCP’s United Front? It is hard to find any other explanation.

Cardinal Parolin's remarks this week indicating that the Vatican wants to upgrade diplomatic relations with China and open an office in Beijing should cause more than a frisson of alarm in every Catholic. Beijing has, of course, welcomed this latest kowtow from Rome. But for what purpose and at what cost?

"If a dialogue is based on kowtowing and surrender, and staying silent on the subjects that really matter, then it is not a dialogue"

Is the Vatican—one of the few states that still holds full diplomatic relations with Taiwan—prepared to throw one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies under the bus just as it has elected and inaugurated a new president, William Lai Ching-te, who is a defender of religious freedom, and just as Taiwan is under ever-increasing threat from Beijing?

Pope Francis should be calling out China’s full-scale drills around Taiwan, not seeking to improve ties with Beijing.

Some will emphasize the need for dialogue and bridge-building, as Hong Kong’s Cardinal Stephen Chow recently did in a speech in Boston. That is good and right — no Catholic can oppose such concepts as part of our mission. But the question is not whether to have dialogue, but about what? And if a dialogue is based on kowtowing and surrender and staying silent on the subjects that matter, then it is not a dialogue.

My worry about the Vatican’s approach to Beijing is that it is not a dialogue but a monologue — a monologue delivered by Beijing that the Vatican feels forced not only to listen to but also to promote.

In terms of bridge-building — that is important, but if bridges are to be sustainable, they need solid foundations and robust pillars. If we don’t build bridges underpinned by our values of justice, human dignity, human freedom and the Imago Dei, whatever bridges we think we are constructing will crumble quickly. And the CCP has a track record of burning bridges.

Cardinal Parolin said this week, "The pope wants Chinese Catholics to love their country and be the best among citizens… He loves China.”

So do I. But it is because I love China that I speak out for those who are suffering, unjustly jailed, tortured, disappeared, incarcerated in concentration camps, and persecuted. And it is because they wish to be good citizens that people like Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, Pastor Wang Yi, Zhang Zhan and Jimmy Lai have risked their lives and liberty to speak out for the truth and have ended up in jail as a result.

I would suggest to the Holy Father and Cardinal Parolin that the best Chinese citizens are those who courageously put their faith and values first and do not sell their souls to a brutal, illegitimate, cruel, inhumane, and atheist regime. We should honor those Chinese citizens, and their example should be emulated by the Vatican, not that of the fake Bishop of Shanghai.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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2 Comments on this Story
Hitler too tried to remake Christianity to align with Nazi principles and pseudo German myths. He partially succeeded with the Lutheran Church, splitting it. What if Hitler had appointed a Catholic bishop, say to replace Cardinal von Galen or von Preysing, and that bishop was welcomed in Rome and stood beside Secretary of State Maglione and said that the Catholic Church should align it's teachings with Nazism? How would Pope Pius XII be remembered? If the free world survives, how will pope Francis be remembered for his treatment of Xi's China?
Paul Mariani's analysis of Bishop Kung and the Catholic resistance to the ChiComs in Shanghai in the aftermath of 1949 is a sober and stunning about-face, a total capitulation, by the Vatican, a wholesale sell-out of the Underground Church.

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