Expressing optimism about a historic agreement between the Chinese government and the Holy See, Fang said that if Rome legitimizes mainland bishops, the move will improve Sino-Vatican relations and allow for greater development of the Church in China.
President Xi has made it clear that all religions active in China must be “Sinicized,” or rendered compatible with the beliefs and programs of Communist Chinese culture and cleansed of western influence.
Paul Lei Shiyin, the Patriotic Bishop of Leshan, who was excommunicated by the Holy See because of his unauthorized episcopal ordination, said that diplomatic ties between China and the Vatican would benefit China’s international influence and permit the Church greater leeway for its pastoral work in the country.
The deal reportedly includes the provision that Pope Francis will legitimize seven excommunicated bishops in China who were ordained without Holy See approval, as well as giving the Chinese government an unspecified role in naming Catholic bishops in the country.
Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), told media this week that China has always striven to improve Sino-Vatican relations, while describing communications between the two parties as effective and smooth.