Beijing Holds ‘Patriotic’ Indoctrination Course for Catholic Priests

ROME — Officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hosted a week-long training program for Catholic priests who have enlisted in the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, organized around the theme “Guiding the Catholic Church to follow a path conforming to socialist society.”

A first-hand report from the training course, which took place from July 21 to July 27, was published Wednesday by AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, detailing how priests are instructed to carry on socialism, sinicize Catholicism, place their country ahead of their faith, and develop “an independent, autonomous and democratic Church,” free from Rome’s authority.

Thirty-three priests hailing from various parishes in the diocese of Mindong and over 20 religious affairs officials from Ningde took part in this training course. Lessons were given by members of the CCP and United Front, university professors, and bishops of the Patriotic Association.

The diocese of Mindong was chosen to be the pilot project of the Chinese-Vatican agreement, for which Pope Francis reinstated Bishop Zhan Silu, who had been ex-excommunicated, putting him in the place of underground Bishop Guo Xijin, who agreed to be demoted to auxiliary bishop at the pope’s request. Bishop Guo is still not recognized by the Chinese government because he has refused to enlist in the Patriotic Association.

As AsiaNews noted, a remarkable feature of the report on the course is that the name of Jesus is never mentioned, while the word “gospel” appears only once. According to AsiaNews, the report confirms fears that the CCP and the United Front are working to transform the official Catholic Church into a State Church and priests into functionaries of the party.

The training course was held at the Central Institute of Socialism and featured professors from Beijing University, PLA National Defense University, and the Central Institute of Socialism, who spoke of  “socialism with Chinese characteristics in Xi Jinping’s new era, Chinese traditions and culture, the sinicization of religion, current situations in China and abroad, the work of the Catholic Church, policies and religious doctrine, history and culture of religion.”

At the end of the course, Mindong’s Bishop Zhan Silu, who is also vice-president of the Chinese Episcopal Conference, highlighted what he saw as the key results obtained with the course, which underscored the role of priests in resolutely bringing about the sinicization of the Catholic Church in China.

“I sincerely hope that you will bring back to your parishes the fruit of these studies, sharing it with the faithful and sowing it so that your parish can develop in a healthy and perpetual way,” Bishop Zhan Silu said.

We are all called “to foster social harmony, progress, and a positive culture, to carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, continuing along a path that conforms to socialist society,” he said.