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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, March 06, 2020
Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.
Today, the Church in China looks to the future with hope,” Pope Francis said in the video message communicating his monthly prayer intentions. Yes, but that hope looks increasingly forlorn, as Chinese authorities continue to close down Catholic churches that do not accept the leadership of the government-backed Patriotic Association.
“The Church wants Chinese Christians to be truly Christians, and to be good citizens,” the Pope said in his video message, adding that “they need to achieve the unity of the divided Catholic community.”
Of course Christians should be good citizens, and of course Catholics should work for unity within the Church. But in the context of the current situation in China, the Pope’s message is truly stunning, because his prayer intention expresses exactly the message that Beijing authorities want to convey.
From Beijing’s perspective, a “good citizen” is someone who accepts the ideological leadership of the Communist Party—and in this case its reliable arm, the Patriotic Association. So when he encourages Chinese Catholics to be “good citizens,” the Pope seems to be saying that Catholics should follow the lead of the Patriotic Association. At least you can be very sure the Beijing regime will convey that message, claiming the Pope’s endorsement. …