Chinese Catholics warned against ‘foreign infiltration’

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Warning from top communist leader comes as app CathAssist announces shutdown after failing to obtain license

A painting by Osamu Giovanni Micico recalls the martyrs of the massacre of Catholics at Xiwanzi in China in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Photo: Bitter Winter)

Posted: Aug 30, 2022 10:46 GMT

Updated: August 30, 2022 11:09 GMT

A senior leader of China’s Communist regime has warned the country’s Catholic community to be vigilant about the dangers of “foreign infiltration”.

Wang Yang, a member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China and head of the parliamentary advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the comments during a recent meeting with leaders of the State-sponsored Catholic Church. , reported Radio Free Asia.

Wang urged Catholic leaders to say their faith needed to “adapt better to a socialist society.”

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“Wang urged them to unswervingly adhere to the principle of independence [from the Vatican]resist infiltration by foreign forces and resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Aug. 23. “He also called for efforts to ensure that the leadership of the Catholic Church remains firmly in the hands of those who love their country and their religion,” the report said.

The top executive’s comments came as a tech company operating an assistive app for Chinese Catholics, CathAssist, announced it was shutting down operations indefinitely, citing difficulties obtaining a license.

“Since the establishment of [new rules] on March 1, we made various efforts to apply for an internet religious information service license,” he said. “We’ve taken a variety of actions including suspending sharing, changing our name, adjusting content…but licensing requires a much greater reduction in functionality and content,” said the app development team in a statement on August 23.

A Catholic from Hebei province in northern China told RFA that he installed the app a long time ago, but it stopped working two days earlier.

“[They] worked hard for several months [to get the license]but in the end they failed so it was shut down,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said he felt lost without the app. “I used CathAssist to listen to the priest explain the Bible every day, as well as a lot of other Catholic spiritual content,” he said. “I felt I was missing a lot when I discovered that it was no longer available.” American Protestant pastor Liu Yi said the app would never have been “As far as I know, the organization behind the app was an ordinary business, which would have made it nearly impossible to get a license,” Liu said. “Some people have told me that they need an enormous amount of political censorship to get one, and if the candidate fails the political tests , the license will not be issued,” he said.

“The purpose of the license is to prevent individuals or other organizations from offering religious teachings online.”

One observer alleged the crackdown was part of the CCP’s retaliation for the Catholic Church’s support for the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “Beijing was very unhappy with this, and the bishop of Hong Kong was removed from his post and a pro-China priest appointed in his place,” said Taiwanese strategic analyst Shih Chien-yu.

He pointed out that the CCP has heavily revised some rituals and continues to force Catholics to accept them, citing the recent appearance of statues of the Virgin Mary dressed to look like Empress Dowager Cixi.

Chang Chiah-lin, a professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said Wang was continuing the policy of “sinicizing religion” instituted by CCP leader Xi Jinping. “Catholic leaders in China should be patriotic and party-loving,” Chang said. “They must be ideologically very strong, to ensure that the CCP can control the whole Chinese Catholic Church through its leaders.” “It would actually be very difficult to infiltrate the Catholic Church in China,” he said.

The observers’ comments come days after the state-backed Catholic Church in China organized the three-day event on the 10e National Congress where they made a vow to practice their faith in accordance with the CCP’s socialist policies.

Bob Fu, chairman of the US-based Christian rights group ChinaAid, said the CCP under Xi Jinping was doing everything possible to subjugate all religions to communist ideology.

“There are verses on the door [of churches] telling them to obey the party and follow the party, rather than God, or even the Pope,” Fu said. “Inside there is also a portrait of Xi Jinping.”

He also criticized the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops in China.

“The Vatican made a secret deal with China, thinking they were helping the church, but they were actually hurting it,” he said. “Clergy disappearances and abductions are still happening, and the situation is getting worse.” “The Sino-Vatican agreement politicized the Church, and…it was a betrayal of the Church,” he said.

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