The underground bishop, recently recognized by the government as auxiliary bishop, withdrew his request. In it obedience to the laws of the country was accepted, but not membership of the PA. But the government does not want to publish it, making underground priests believe that they are obliged to join the body that proclaims the independence of the Church. In the Sino-Vatican agreement – also unpublished – membership of the PA is optional.

by Bernardo Cervellera

Updated: February 26, 2021 03:19 AM GMT

Rome (AsiaNews) – Msgr. Vincenzo Guo Xijin, auxiliary bishop of Mindong (Fujian), is willing to suffer persecution along with other underground priests, rather than join the Patriotic Association (PA) or force his priests to join. This has been confirmed to AsiaNews by diocesan sources who add that the situation was a  “pilot project” for the implementation of the Sino-Vatican agreement.

Following the agreement and the lifting of the excommunication of the official bishop of the diocese, Msgr. Vincenzo Zhan Silu, at the request of Pope Francis, Msgr. Guo accepted to be demoted to auxiliary bishop to leave the ordinary see to Msgr. Zhan.

As Msgr. Guo was recognized only by the Holy See, the United Front and the religious affairs office made him sign a paper in which he would pledge obedience to the new bishop, but above all submission to the laws of the country and adherence to the principles of “independence” of the Church and the PA.

However, Bishop Guo signed a document in which he accepted obedience to the bishop, to the laws of the country, but neither to “independence” or the PA, whose principles are “irreconcilable with the Catholic faith” (Letter of Benedict XVI to Chinese Catholics, 2007). In this way he was recognized as a bishop and was able to celebrate the Chrism Mass in a public way last Holy Thursday.

But the United Front does not want to publish this document, and instead demands that all the underground priests of the diocese – the majority, about 60 – sign up to the PA, by leading them to believe that Msgr. Guo has also signed up for membership.

Hence the rebellion of Msgr. Guo, who even prefers not to be recognized as a bishop by the government, rather than seeing his priests forced into PA membership.

The problem stems from the fact that neither is the Sino-Vatican agreement public. According to information obtained by from AsiaNews, the agreement provides for the submission of priests and bishops to the laws of China, but maintains membership in the Patriotic Association as optional.

But the organization that controls the Church requires mandatory registration. In several provinces – even in Fujian – a campaign is underway to force priests and bishops to join the PA, otherwise they will be excluded from the ministry.

In an attempt to protect freedom for himself and his priests, Bishop Guo wrote a letter in which he withdrew his application for government recognition, and sent it to Fuan’s Office for Public Security, to the Fuan Religious Affairs Bureau and to Bishop Zhan Silu.

In the letter, Msgr. Guo explains his motivations: “The government has already decided to persecute priests who refuse to sign the request [for membership in the PA]. If I am unable to protect them, it is not worth my time to be recognized as an auxiliary bishop. I am willing to face persecution together with other priests”.

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