A growing number of human rights advocates and observers are vocally expressing their bewilderment at the Vatican’s silence over the egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Pope Francis and other key Vatican figures have avoided criticizing ongoing violations of religious liberty in China, despite the Holy See’s constant appeals to end such abuses elsewhere.
During his annual Christmas message last December, for instance, Pope Francis offered up prayers for troubled regions around the world, remembering all those who suffer persecution, and yet conspicuous by its absence in the nearly exhaustive list was any mention of the persecution of religious believers in China or the ongoing Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
Among the many held up for their suffering, the pope enumerated “the Middle East,” the “beloved Syrian people,” “the Lebanese people,” “Iraq,” “Yemen,” “the whole American continent,” “the beloved Venezuelan people,” “beloved Ukraine,” “the people of Africa,” “the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” “Burkina Faso,” “Mali,” “Niger,” and “Nigeria.”
Not a word for Chinese Christians, members of Falun Gong, or persecuted Uighur Muslims.
In a curious case of cognitive dissonance, the pope himself has only had praise for China, insisting that its communist government protects religious freedom and that its “churches are full.” He has also reversed Church discipline to allow Chinese Catholic priests to enroll in the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which was set up under the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong as a parallel church to the church in Rome.
Francis’ efforts to cozy up to the CCP have earned him only reproach from his critics, such as the former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who claims that due to his naivete, Pope Francis is “killing” the underground Church in China.
In an unusual departure from the path marked by Vatican leadership, the United States bishops have called on the faithful to pray for Chinese Christians and to inform themselves on the horrendous abuses being carried out by the government of Xi Jinping.
This past June, the U.S. Bishops published a stinging communiqué calling out the CCP for its shocking violations of religious liberty.
“Under the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese citizens have limited religious freedom,” the bishops noted. “Since 2013, religious persecution has intensified under a government campaign for the ‘sinicization’ of religion — an effort to have religions conform to government-sanctioned interpretations of Chinese culture.”
“While the Vatican has reached a provisional agreement with China on the issue of episcopal appointments, reports of persecution by the Chinese government persist as underground churches are closed and their priests detained, crosses destroyed, bibles confiscated, and children under 18 forbidden from attending Mass and receiving religious instruction,” the bishops said.
While the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, has drawn comparisons between the plight of the Uighurs in China today and the Holocaust, no such indictment has emerged from the Vatican, Benedict Rogers noted in his article.
Nobody could see the evidence and fail to note “the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago: People being forcibly loaded on to trains; beards of religious men being trimmed; women being sterilised; and the grim spectre of concentration camps,” Ms. van der Zyl declared.
“But one voice has been strangely absent — that of Pope Francis, ordinarily a powerful advocate for the oppressed,” Rogers stated. “His silence speaks to the dangers of the deal made with China by the Vatican — and demands that others in the church speak out.”
“It is Francis’s silence that shocks me most,” Rogers wrote. “Almost every Sunday, as he prays the Angelus, he rightly references some injustice somewhere in the world. He has spoken often in the past not only of the persecution of Christians around the world but of the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar; the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, and Nigeria; and religious freedom for all.”