Confrontation Brews Between U.S, Vatican Over Pope Francis Deal With Communist China Despite Crackdown On Christianity

Confrontation Brews Between U.S, Vatican Over Pope Francis Deal With Communist China Despite Crackdown On ChristianityImage Courtesy: Crux

The Vatican on Wednesday (Sep 30) reportedly refused to accede to request of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a meeting with Pope Francis, amid an ongoing clash between Pompeo and the Holy See over policy regarding China, AP reported.

The disagreement on China comes as the Vatican is currently in negotiations with Beijing to extend its controversial 2018 accord over bishop nominations.

Pompeo spent about 45 minutes Thursday meeting in the Apostolic Palace with his Vatican counterpart, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Cardinal Parolin told reporters that Pope Francis “clearly said that he does not receive political figures ahead of the elections.”

“We had a constructive discussion,” Pompeo said after the meeting, “We have a shared objective. The Chinese Communist Party is behaving in ways that are reminiscent of what’s only happened in centuries past in terms of human rights violations. We’ve watched them oppress not only Muslim Uighurs but Christians, Catholics, Falun Gong, people of all faiths.

China and the Vatican had been at loggerheads since 1951, two years after the founding of the communist People’s Republic.

China’s Catholic population, conservatively estimated to be around 12 million, is divided between a largely underground Church, swearing loyalty to the Vatican, and the state sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association.

For decades, China has attempted to control the Catholic church hierarchy within its borders, going so far as to appoint bishops who were subsequently excommunicated by the Vatican because they were not chosen by the Pope.

In Sep 2018, Vatican announced that it had signed a provisional agreement with China on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in the country. Under the terms of the agreement, Pope Francis agreed to accord recognition to seven bishops appointed by Beijing. These seven appointees, finalised by the Communist Party officials, were previously not accepted by the church.

The deal angered many Christians across China and the world, who are opposing China’s tightening control of religion.

China had also announced a five-year plan to ‘sinicise’ Christianity. Over the past few months, thousands of ‘house churches’ have been shut down by authorities, reports have said. Authorities have also seized Bibles, and e-commerce sites in China have pulled out the book from their websites. Christians in China have reportedly been holding their masses in secret amid the crackdown.