Beijing Reiterates Control Over Religion in China-Vatican Deal Talks

By Mei Manuel, April 05, 2018 05:04 AM

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A Chinese official states on Wednesday that no religion would be above the state, decreasing the posibility that China and the Vatican would be able to reach an accord regarding the appointment of bishops in the country.

In an interview with reporters during a religious affairs briefing, State Administration for Religious Affairs official Chen Zongrong said that China would not allow any foreign interference to influence the country's religious affairs and reiterates the government's desire to remain in control in the country's religious organizations.

According to the New York Times, Chen said "I think there is no religion in human society that is above the state."

He further adds, "Religion must adapt to the society it is in. If a religion is incompatible with its society, this religion cannot survive and develop."

Chen's comments indicates a possible roadblock in the current talks between China and the Vatican regarding Christianity in China, especially in the selection of bishops in the country. Recently, it was reported that the Vatican would be open to making concessions with Beijing, which includes asking two 'underground' bishops to step aside, in order to hae some influence in the bishop appointments in the country.

There is no official diplomatic ties between China and the Vatican since it was broken off in 1951 after the Communist took over. Catholic churches remain in China, but it is closely monitored by the government. The Vatican does not recognize the bishops selected by the Chinese government. The second sect of Catholics in China are the 'underground' Catholics who follow the Vatican.

Several attempts were done by both parties to try fixing their relations, but as the negotiations continue, some Chinese Catholics belonging to the 'underground' sect blasted the deal such as former Hong Kong bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen. Zen accused the Vatican of 'selling out' to the regime for pushing for the deal. He also blamed the pope's advisors for pushing the pontiff into the deal which 'comprimises without limits' and gains little in return.

Zen also criticized the Pope as he does not have a 'direct knowledge' regarding the Chinese Communist Party and its functions.

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