Swedish scholar calls for the Vatican to speak up on China

A view of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Swedish Fredrik Fällman, Associate Professor of Sinology at the University of Gothenburg states that the Vatican should speak up about human rights abuses by the Chinese government and that dialogue on equal terms is not what is happening.

In the Swedish scholar’s 19 March column at East Asian Forum for economics, politics, and public policy, Fredrik Fällman wrote that “The Catholic Church often comments on the situation in other countries. Yet in China, the Vatican keeps silent on many concerning developments including structural religious persecution, labor rights issues, and human rights abuses against the Uyghurs. It seems Vatican officials are holding China to a different standard compared to other countries.”

Fredrik Fällman who studies China also stated that China should be treated like any other country and play by the same rules as others.

The Vatican and the Chinese government have previously reached an agreement on the appointment of bishops to help unite the state-run Church’s 6 million registered and the several million who are estimated to belong to unregistered Catholic communities remaining loyal to the Holy See. According to Joseph Cardinal Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, Christians in China have however continued to be persecuted and harassed by authorities, despite the agreement.

In his column, Fredrik Fällman notes that Beijing has tightened its control over religion in recent years and under a new law, several Catholics in Hong Kong have been arrested and charged with terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion. According to new rules, the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association will from 1 May this year be responsible for selecting episcopal candidates who will be “approved and consecrated by the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference.”

Frederik Fällman concludes that an international coalition between Christians, and perhaps other religious groups need to put pressure on China, and “here the Vatican could play a central role with its strength and experience, which would also benefit the achievement of the ‘pastoral’ aspects sought with the current Sino-Vatican agreement. True dialogue includes frank criticism and is the key to making real steps forward in relations with China.”

Read the full article and more on the subject here

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