China's state-run Catholic Church, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, will be selecting, approving, and ordaining candidates for the episcopate even without involving the Vatican once its new rules take place this May 1, a report said.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the new rules, entitled "Administrative Measures For Religious Clergy." was translated by Bitter Winter and revealed China's intent to ordain bishops without the involvement of the Vatican in the process. Bitter Winter is a magazine on China's religious freedom conditions.
China's new process of selection, as per Catholic News Agency, violates the 2018 Vatican-China agreement wherein the selection of bishops by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association undergoes approval first by the Vatican through the Holy See after endorsement by the Chinese Catholic Bishop's Conference. The agreement was meant to unify the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the underground Catholic Church, whose members have remained in allegiance to the Pope.
The Catholic News Agency said there are an estimated 6 million Catholics registered with China's Catholic Church and there are several million Catholics who belong to the underground community that are unregistered. Members of the clergy from the underground community are not allowed to register with China's state-run church.
In addition, the Catholic News Agency highlighted that the Vatican-China agreement and its terms were actually renewed in October 2020 for another two years. However, details on it were never disclosed to the public. Notwithstanding, there were two bishops appointed in October and one in November after the agreement's renewal following the "regulatory framework" stipulated in the agreement as reported by a Vatican newspaper.
Besides not mentioning Vatican in the selection process, China's new rules require the Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference to submit the information of the new bishop to the State Administration for Religious Affairs. The new bishop, after being registered in China's database, is required to promote the Chinese Communist Party's values.
"Religious clergy should love the motherland, support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations, and rules, practice the core values of socialism, adhere to the principle of independent and self-administered religion in China, adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religion in China," the new rules' Article III states.
The new rule, the Catholic News Agency detailed, also require the clergy to "operate to maintain national unity, religious harmony, and social stability," to "guide" its members "to be patriotic and law-abiding," and to undergo a "religious clergy training program" for their political and cultural education.
Meanwhile, it prohibits them from any thing that will "undermine national unity," to "organize, host, or participate in unauthorized religious activities held outside the authorized places of religious activities," to preach in non-religious schools, and to support activities that advance terrorism or may be regarded as terrorist acts such as arson and vandalism. A "rewards and punishments" system is set in place to judge the behavior of the Clergy over a period of time.
Besides the identification of the roles of the clergy in support of China, the new rule also regulates membership worship through "strict gatekeeping, verification of identity, and registration."