In September 2018, after a long period of contact between the two, came the news that the Vatican and Red China had signed an agreement which would permit the Chinese Communist government to have the final say in the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China.
Expressing what millions of Roman Catholics felt, the signing was described as “a shocking development to many” by a Roman Catholic source. An understatement of note.
Just what was going on?
For many decades, the Chinese Communist government has claimed the right to control all religious activity in China, and has brutally clamped down on all who dissent: Protestants, Papists and others. This approach to religion is of course in accordance with old-style Communist principles, to which China subscribes wholeheartedly. The State must be all-powerful, according to Communist ideology; and in Communist countries like China and Russia (the old USSR), not to mention many others, the only religions permitted by the State to exist are State-sanctioned, State-controlled ones. In this way the Reds give the appearance of permitting religious freedom while simultaneously controlling religions with an iron fist.
Following its anti-religious policy, China claimed the right to appoint Chinese Roman Catholic bishops, as well as Protestant ministers and all other religious leaders. The Vatican strongly opposed the State appointment of bishops for all these years. As a consequence, two “Catholic Churches” existed in China: the official, State-controlled one, known as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the priests and bishops of which were not in subjection to the Vatican and were in fact Communist agents; and an underground, illegal one, the priests and bishops of which remained loyal to the Vatican. The latter, being orthodox Roman Catholics, suffered persecution at the hands of the Chinese government for many years.
But with the signing of this agreement, all future bishops of the Chinese Roman Catholic “Church” would first be approved by the Chinese government – with the blessing and co-operation of the Vatican!