(CNSNews.com) — In an open letter to Catholic bishops throughout the world, a group of Chinese Catholic scholars, lawyers, and activists plead with the bishops to contact the Vatican and urge Pope Francis to not go forward with his plan to try to unite the underground Chinese church with the Communist-run Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which is schismatic and rejects some of the basic teachings of Catholicism.
“We earnestly ask you, with the love of the people of God, appeal to the Holy See,” reads the letter. “Please rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.”
Pope Francis reportedly is preparing to sign off on a deal with the Chinese government to supposedly improve diplomatic relations and allow Catholics to worship more freely in the Communist regime. The deal would require the Pope to accept seven bishops that were appointed not by him, but by the CPA, which is completely controlled by the government.
These CPA bishops do not profess loyalty to the Pope and the Magesterium of the chuch. They also do not accept the church’s teachings on such issues as right to life, abortion, contraception, and euthanasia.
“The seven illicitly ordained ‘bishops’ were not appointed by the Pope, and their moral integrity is questionable,” reads the open letter. “They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly.”
“If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China,” reads the letter.
A schism occurs when a small (or large) segment of the church splits off to form its own, separate identity. Martin Luther, for instance, sparked a schism, which created the Lutheran church. In England, King Henry VIII split with Rome, which started the Anglican church.
In China, many Catholics fear that the Vatican deal will prompt the faithful Catholics, who have made up the underground church since 1940, to further distance themselves from the CPA. There will still be two churches, as there exists today, but the split could become hardened. And, ironically, the situation potentially would place the Pope on the side of the Communists. The faithful Catholics would face mroe persecution.
“The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church,” reads the open letter. “Religious persecution has never stopped.”
“Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions,” states the letter. “So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people….”
The letter continues, “We are deeply shocked and disappointed. With our love and allegiance to the Holy Mother Church, we hope you and the bishops conferences would pay attention to such development…. [W]e urge that any agreement must be grounded in the protection of religious freedom, and an end to religious persecution.”
Soem of the letter’s signers include Dr. Kenneth Ka-lok Chan (Hong Kong), Prof. Joseph Yu-shek Cheng (Hong Kong), Mr. Yiu-leung Cheung (Hong Kong), Dr Rodney Wai-chi Chu (Hong Kong), Dr. Martin C. K. Chung (Hong Kong), Mr. Yan-ho Lai (London, UK), Dr. Wing-kwan Lam (Hong Kong) and Dr. Lisa Yuk-ming Leung (Hong Kong).