New regulations ask Catholics to elect their bishops democratically and report to the state administration
Updated: February 26, 2021 03:19 AM GMT
The communist government in China has promulgated a new set of rules for religious clergy to be implemented in two months, but they ignore the Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments by asking people to elect their bishops democratically.
The new Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy, set to come into effect from May 1, cover priests of all five authorized religions in China — Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.
The new measures, adapted from the 2018 Regulation on Religious Affairs, were promulgated on Jan. 8 as State Administration of Religious Affairs Order No. 15. An English translation of the original text in Chinese appears on bitterwinter.org, a website on religious liberty.
“Catholic bishops are approved and consecrated by the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC),” says article XVI of the order, which refuses to mention the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments, which was renewed for another two-year term in 2020.
The BCCCC, which is not recognized by the Holy See, and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which directly works under the Chinese administration overseeing the state-approved Catholic Church, are given responsibility for reporting the election of bishops.
Within 20 days of the consecration of a bishop, the BCCCC and CCPA should report it to the State Administration of Religious Affairs, stipulates article XVI.
One of the documents to be submitted to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for the record of electing the bishop is “a statement issued by the Catholic community … on the democratic election of the bishop.”
The Catholic community electing a bishop could be of a province, autonomous region or municipality functioning directly under the central government, the article says.
The new regulations indirectly assert that the election of Catholic bishops will be done by the state-approved system under the Chinese Communist Party’s direction and the Vatican and Pope Francis will have no role in it.
It runs contrary to the laborious China-Vatican deal on appointment of Catholic bishops, signed in September 2018 after several years of negotiations. The still undisclosed deal aims to appoint bishops with the agreement of China and the Vatican.