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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - An official with the Holy See is reaffirming that the secretive deal signed with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in September 2018 will be renewed.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, told reporters on Monday that the Holy See and the atheist CCP are poised to renew their accord set to expire by October.
Parolin's assertion confirms the words of other prelates like Italian archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and Argentine bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.
"The deal is an interim deal, which expires, as you said, in September of this year. We have to find a formula. We have to see what to do after this deadline. I think we should probably reconfirm it for one or two years," Celli, former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said on Italian television in June.
Celli, who played a role in negotiating the 2018 Vatican-China accord, claimed that the "Catholic Church in China must be fully Chinese, but fully Catholic! There are no discounts to make."
On our journey, we must all be faithful to the gospel. It is not an easy path, but it seems to me that we have embarked on a respectful path trying to understand each other ... to see how to still resolve those knots that remain and those situations that undeniably leave [us] much more than thoughtful — I would say worried. However, we must carry it forward.
According to Global Times, Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, confirmed the renewal in August, saying "They are going to renew it, which means the initial experience went well."
In China, the CCP only officially recognizes Catholics who belong to the Chinese Patriotic Association (CPA), which is a communist-controlled arm of the State. Catholics loyal to the Holy See and not belonging to the CPA are referred to as the "underground Church."
Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, told Church Militant in February that the Vatican's handling of the underground Church constitutes a "total sellout." One of two living Chinese cardinals, Zen knows no details of the 2018 Vatican-China accord likely to be renewed.
Zen explained in the interview that the "total sellout" occurred in three steps.
"The first step was that secret agreement [Vatican-China agreement reached in September 2018] for the selection of bishops, and then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops — asking the legitimate underground bishops to step down," he said. "And then, last June came out that document — the so-called pastoral guidance encouraging people to join the [Catholic] Patriotic Association."
Asked in July 2019 if persecution increased for the underground Church after the 2018 Vatican-China deal, Cdl. Zen answered, "Yes, it is obvious for anybody who follows the events on the news. It is really a terrible thing; the most worrisome element is that the agreement was a secret one, so we do not know what is in the agreement."
The cardinal lamented how the deal led to utter confusion and increased persecution.
"So, when the government comes to say, 'do this' and 'do that' to our people here, they ask why. They ask, 'Did the pope already agree?' Then the people say, 'We don't know; we don't know what the pope promised to you — what he agreed on,'" he said.
Zen explained that before there was an agreement, there was a kind of compromise on many points. For example, he said, the underground Church could have its church buildings and underground priests, even in the cities, and could say Masses for the faithful, even though the law is against that.
"But the authorities, for a long time, never enforced those laws," he said. "Now, they enforce those laws. So, it is a much harsher persecution after the agreement; it is terrible."
Cardinal Zen further told Church Militant in February that he has evidence to believe Cdl. Parolin is not a man of God. In July, Zen said, "[w]ith the 'pastoral guidelines' [the third step in the "total sellout"] cardinal Parolin served the last blow to murder the Church in China."
"Parolin single-handedly completes now the trilogy of murdering the Church in China," he added.
In 2019, Parolin told Global Times the Vatican-China accord is bearing fruit. "For Pope Francis ... the main interest in the ongoing dialogue is on the pastoral level: He is making a great act of trust and respect for the Chinese people and their culture of millennia, with the well-founded hope of receiving an equally sincere and positive response," he said.
"For the future, it will certainly be important to deepen this theme, especially the relationship between 'inculturation' and 'sinicization,' keeping in mind how the Chinese leadership has been able to reiterate their willingness not to undermine the nature and the doctrine of each religion," Parolin claimed.
But the exact opposite is the truth for the faithful Catholic Church in China, according to Cdl. Zen.
"Since the Holy See will appoint no more bishops in the underground, the community will die by natural dead, but the Faith can survive in the 'catacombs,'" Zen concluded.