Beijing-appointed Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Shanghai has declared that adopting socialist core values is “a fundamental requirement for the survival and development of the Catholic Church in China.”
“Sinicization is a directional issue: a signpost and a direction to adapt to the socialist society, as well as an inherent rule and a fundamental requirement for the survival and development of the Catholic Church in China itself,” Bishop Shen told China News Service.
Shen, chairman of the state-controlled Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), said the point of Sinicization is “not to change religious beliefs, but to better adapt and integrate into society.”
“Sinicization” of religion refers to the indigenization of religious faith, practice, and ritual in Chinese culture and society, requiring that religious leaders and institutions demonstrably embrace State Socialism and the leadership of the atheistic Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
According to Shen, who is also vice-chairman of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), the role of the Church is “to provide the explanations of theological classics, doctrines, and canons that align with the requirements of socialist core values.”
The aim of this program is “to establish a Catholic theological framework with Chinese characteristics, which can be used as a guide to put sinicization of Catholicism into practice,” Shen said.
Last April, Shen was officially installed as the new bishop of Shanghai, having been appointed by the Council of Chinese Bishops without Vatican approval.
At his installation ceremony, Shen said he would continue the tradition of “patriotism and love” for the Church in Shanghai, pledging to adhere to the CCP’s principles of independence and self-administration and the campaign of “Sinicizing” Catholicism in China.
Vatican sources revealed that Shen’s appointment was “unilateral” — made without papal approval — meaning that the CCP had once again violated its 2018 agreement with the Vatican, which stipulate that both parties must agree on any candidate for bishop before he can be appointed.
Bishop Shen is reportedly not liked in Shanghai and has been accused of demanding large cash donations when ordaining priests in the diocese.
The former bishop of Shanghai, Bishop Ma Daqin — who was Vatican-approved — is currently under house arrest in Sheshan Seminary in punishment for his resignation from the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, a move he announced during his episcopal ordination ceremony in 2012.
In October, Beijing tightened its stranglehold on religion still further, passing a “Patriotic Education Law” that requires churches and religious groups to adapt their educational activities to promote the party’s official ideology.
“The state is to guide and support religious groups, religious institutes, and religious activity sites in carrying out patriotic education activities, enhancing religious professionals’ and believers’ identification with the great motherland, the Chinese people, Chinese culture, the Chinese Communist Party, and socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the new law states.
The law mandates that “all levels and types of school shall have patriotic education permeate the entire course of school education” and that even “the parents or other guardians of minors shall include love of the motherland in family education.”