In September 2018, Pope Francis signed a historic agreement with Beijing, allowing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to nominate bishops to the Catholic Church in China. The deal is believed to bring relief to millions of Catholics in the country who have been victims of state-sponsored persecution for decades.
However, by signing the agreement, the Vatican has given the CCP another excuse to persecute Christians under the garb of them not being affiliated with “official” CCP-approved churches. Interestingly, the agreement also shares a similarity with the one the Vatican signed with Napoleon in 1801.
Treaty with Napoleon
In 1789, France witnessed a number of protests that would later be called the “French Revolution.” When revolutionaries took over the country, they started persecuting the Catholic Church. A decade later, Napoleon led a military coup and took complete control of France. He forced the Catholic Church into entering an agreement wherein the head of France had the full right to propose bishops.
All existing bishops were made to resign. The government ensured that all newly elected bishops swore an oath of loyalty to the state. The assets of the Church were confiscated. The Church of France was only allowed to use doctrinal texts that were approved by the government. Bishops were barred from holding meetings without prior approval from authorities. If a diplomatic representative of the Holy See wanted to visit France, he had to obtain state permission.
Though the Vatican signed the agreement hoping that it would improve relations with the French government, such results did not materialize. Instead, the Church lost power and most of its articles of faith were replaced by state-sanctioned versions. Even after the death of Napoleon, successive governments continued with his policies until the 20th century.
The new deal that the Vatican struck with Beijing seems to repeat the same mistakes. The CCP has been given full rights to nominate bishops, each of whom will be tested to abide by the communist ideology. Beijing will also determine which Christian doctrines are “valid” and which are “invalid,” essentially adding communist elements to the religion.
But above all, the agreement gives a justification for the CCP to persecute thousands of innocent Christians just because they do not follow the officially approved Church. Many underground Christians, who secretly practice their faith as per traditions, tell tales of torture at the hands of communist goons who force them to adopt the new state-approved Christianity. But despite the claim of representing the “official” church, the truth is that the CCP is simply a militant atheist organization that harbors hatred for all religions and traditions.
“The officially atheistic Chinese Communist Party… wants to stamp out all religious belief and all religious behavior in China… They want to end all that — their goal is the imposition of atheism on everyone in China… That’s why on February 1st they put in new regulations preventing Catholics or Christians from bringing their own children 18 years old and younger to Catholic Mass or to home church meetings. They want to stamp out religion by preventing it from being transmitted to the next generation,” Steven Mosher, Head of the Population Research Institute, said to Church Militant.
The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has been a strong opponent of the deal and has accused the Vatican of putting wolves before their flock. He warned that true believers will be massacred by the Chinese regime.