FUJIAN PROVINCE, China (ChurchMilitant.com) While Pope Francis has asked Chinese Christians to be "good citizens" by not "engaging in proselytism," the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has intensified the persecution of faithful Catholic clergy, manufacturing new and dehumanizing pressure tactics to coerce them into joining the CCP's Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
Bitter Winter reports participants at a December meeting for select Catholics in the Mingdong diocese were told clergy such as Bp. Vincent Guo Xijin, who is currently homeless after refusing to join the CPCA, should be "transformed."
Promised their churches would operate normally if the priests joined the CPCA, attendees were offered money if they would ask relatives and friends of priests to pressure them into joining, as well as lay groundwork for later intimidation tactics such as taking pictures of women posing with clerics as romantic partners.
If priests still refuse to join the CPCA, they will be put under house arrest with a cut-off water supply and be pressured "until they break down, go insane or even commit suicide," said one government insider.
Pope Francis' prayer intention for March is the unity of Catholics in China.
"Today, the Church in China looks to the future with hope," said Pope Francis in a video released Thursday.
"They need to achieve the unity of the divided Catholic community," he continued. "Let us pray together that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the gospel and grow in unity."
According to Cdl. Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, the Vatican under Pope Francis has completely sold out the underground Church — the faithful who do not belong to the CPCA — despite Francis' claims of a hopeful Chinese Church.
The cardinal told Church Militant recently:
So the first step was that secret agreement for the selection of bishops; and then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops and asking the underground legitimate bishops to step down; and then, finally, last June came out that document, the so-called pastoral guidance, encouraging people to join the Patriotic Association. Incredible — so it's a total sellout.
But the Vatican press release for Francis' March prayer intention implies continuity between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and posits these steps were for unity:
Benedict XVI's important letter to Chinese Catholics in May of 2007 and Pope Francis' message to "the Catholics of China and to the Universal Church" from September 2018, in which he presented the provisional agreement signed by the Holy See and the representative of the People's Republic of China, are steps that have been taken on a path towards recovering the unity of the Church in China.
The outspoken cardinal also told Church Militant he has reason to believe the Vatican-China agreement signed in September 2018 was the same one Benedict XVI rejected in 2010, meaning there is no continuity in the Vatican under Benedict and the Vatican under Francis with regards to the Church in China.
The Vatican-China agreement continues to remain so secret Cdl. Zen, one of only two living Chinese cardinals, has yet to see it.
In the face of this terrible situation, he said, "The most important thing is to pray because we believe the only hope is from Heaven. So, we pray, especially [to] Our Lady, Help of Christians."
"But the second thing is to get the right information," said Cdl. Zen, adding, "It takes some effort to know the reality."