.- Under the new rules that will take effect on May 1, the Catholic Church and the state-led conference of bishops of China will select, approve and ordain episcopal candidates without mentioning the involvement of the Vatican in the process.
China’s new administrative measures for religious clergy will take effect on May 1. The rules have been translated by the magazine Harsh winter, which reports on the conditions of religious freedom in China.
Under the new rules, the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) will be responsible for selecting episcopal candidates. The candidates will then be approved and consecrated by the Conference of Chinese Catholic Bishops.
The rules do not mention any role for the Vatican in approving bishops, despite the 2018 Vatican-China deal apparently involving Chinese authorities and the Holy See in the process of appointing bishops.
In 2018, the Vatican reached an agreement with the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops; the terms of the deal, which was renewed in October 2020, for two more years, were never fully disclosed.
According to reports, however, the agreement allows the State Sanctioned Church of China (CCPA) to select episcopal candidates, who would then be approved or opposed by the Holy See. When the Vatican-China deal was renewed in October, a Vatican newspaper reported that two Chinese bishops had been appointed under the regulatory framework established by the deal. The Vatican confirmed in November that a third bishop had been appointed as part of the deal’s regulatory framework.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong and a vocal critic of the deal, has said he could put the Vatican in the position of having to repeatedly veto China’s proposed episcopal candidates.
The deal was made to help unite the State Church and the underground Catholic Church. An estimated 6 million Catholics are registered with the CCPA, while several million belong to unregistered Catholic communities that have remained faithful to the Holy See.
Under the new rules, once a new bishop is consecrated, the CCPA and the state-sanctioned bishops’ conference will send their information to the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
The registration of the clergy in a database is a key part of the new administrative measures, under which the clergy in China will also be required to promote the values of the Chinese Communist Party.
For example, Article III of the Administrative Measures states that the clergy must love the motherland, support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, and adhere to the leadership of the sinization of religion in China.
The practice of sinicization has been announced and implemented by President Xi Jinping in recent years; critics called the plan an attempt to force religious practice under Chinese government control and in line with CCP values.
In addition, according to the rules, the clergy are supposed to operate to maintain national unity, religious harmony and social stability.
Section D of the measures states that the clergy should encourage citizens to be patriotic and law-abiding. They are prohibited from working to undermine national unity or to support terrorist activities.
It is not known how the terrorist is defined according to these new administrative measures. In Hong Kong’s National Security Law which was imposed from outside by the national legislature in 2020, terrorism included acts such as arson and vandalism of public transport.
Registered members of the clergy in China will not be permitted to organize, host or participate in unauthorized religious activities held outside of permitted places of religious activity, and will not be permitted to preach in schools other than schools. religious.
The registered clergy must belong to one of the Chinese state religions. Pastors of home churches or underground churches will not be allowed to be registered as clergy.
Entry into places of worship should be regulated by strict control, identity verification and registration, the document says.
The rules also provide for a training program for religious clergy for the political education of religious clergy as well as for their cultural education. The clergy must also be judged on their behavior with a system of rewards and punishments in place.
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