Bishop states truth about China’s religious freedom

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/8 23:43:41

Relations between China and the Vatican improved recently. After reports unveiled a framework accord on the appointment of bishops was ready for signing, the world has been speculating whether the historic breakthrough would lead to a resumption of diplomatic relations. Interviewed by Italian media, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in the Vatican, was quoted as saying the Chinese "best realize the social doctrine of the church."

The bishop praised China as "extraordinary," saying the central value in China was work, work, work. "You do not have shantytowns… young people do not take drugs… the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the US," Sorondo has been quoted as saying.

Sorondo's remarks apparently made some Western media uncomfortable. Breitbart published an article hinting it was hard to digest how a bishop could applaud a "communist party-controlled" country. The article's author suggested it was hard to understand how the Holy See could cut a deal with Beijing.

Sorondo's statements directly contradict their misunderstandings of China. Sorondo was not casually commenting, but relating directly how he felt after a short visit to China. As a Catholic bishop, he must have observed the country from the perspective of an authoritative religious figure. The overwhelming majority of Catholics in China have full access to freedom of religion while abiding by Catholic doctrine and China's rule of law. The Chinese work diligently and enjoy rapidly improving living standards. They are no different from Catholics in other countries simply because they live in a socialist nation, which reflects the fact that the Chinese government respects their religious freedom and provides them with enough room for religious activities.

Last year China released revised regulations on religious affairs that better guarantee its citizens' freedom of religion. Over the years, the Holy See has at times shown goodwill to Beijing. In December last year, Pope Francis expressed his desire to visit China. Beijing, meanwhile, has proactively made contacts with the Vatican.

Some media outlets and religious figures are making waves over interactions between the Holy See and Beijing out of a prejudice against China. Yet making irresponsible remarks and disrupting bilateral negotiations is not supposed to be the appropriate stance of those of a religious faith because such an attitude is tainted by a political stance which is obviously opposed to the Chinese political system. It is interference in China's domestic affairs and does not conform to the basic principle of a religion. For those who do not understand religious freedom in China, they are welcome to come visit and talk with religious Chinese people, which may help them better understand the country.

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