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08/03/2022 China (International Christian Concern) – On July 15, Francis An Shuxin, the official bishop of the diocese of Baoding, published a “pastoral” letter urging clergy who have not yet registered with the Chinese government to do so immediately. He stated that he would not share the Eucharist with priests who were not registered.  

Bishop An’s letter was a manipulation of two important agreements between the Vatican and the Chinese government. The Sino-Vatican agreement of 2018 was an effort from the Vatican to improve relations with China. It gave the Chinese government the ability to vet bishops appointed by the Vatican. 

In 2019, the Vatican released another statement that acknowledged the reality that many priests were being forced to register with the state and urged the Chinese government to respect their religion.  

In his letter, Bishop An manipulated the 2019 statement to make it seem as though the Vatican was commanding all clergy to register with the government in order to force the priests in his diocese to register. 

Bishops that are working closely with the Chinese government, including Bishop An, are putting pressure on priests to register, citing the need for unity within the church as a way of forcing the hand of the priests. The Sino-Vatican agreement has been weaponized to trick clergy into thinking that the Vatican wants them to be subject first and foremost to the Chinese government.  

 A source from within China wrote in a statement, “In addition to fully restricting the individual freedom (through monitoring and imprisonment) of the underground clergy and allowing abuse by Chinese authorities (through physical and mental pressure), the Holy See’s pastoral guidelines were used as a threat to achieving ‘transformation.’” 

The source continued, “The guidelines have become the most powerful tool in the government’s arsenal to “transform” the underground clergy under the flag of the Vatican.”   

Priests who registered with the Chinese government following Bishop An’s statement have expressed dismay at what they were forced to do. According to AsiaNews, “After signing, some priests suffered a nervous breakdown, while others regretted what they did and reacted with great sorrow. In some cases, priests who had joined the official Church were rejected by their parishioners and had to go home and isolate themselves. As a consequence, the Diocese of Baoding is now in an unprecedented state of chaos.” 

Please pray for Catholic clergy members in China.  

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