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The Roman Catholic Church has shuffled its representatives in key East Asian countries, drawing speculation that the Vatican is making good faith moves to appease the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), an accusation that Catholic prelates deny.
On Jan. 31, the Vatican announced that Monsignor Arnaldo Catalan in Taiwan would be leaving the country to take a new position in Rwanda. Five days later, it was announced that Monsignor Javier Herrera Corona of Hong Kong would be moving stations to the Congo.
The Vatican has not had formal diplomatic relations with Beijing since the Communist Revolution, but the newly vacated seats in Hong Kong and Taiwan – two key international positions for communication with the CCP – have raised concerns that the church is considering actively reaching out to China.
Monsignor Corona spoke with the Union of Catholic Asian News Feb. 8 about the transfers and told reporters that the reshuffling was a normal, unremarkable process.
Catholic worshippers attend a mass at the government-sanctioned St. Ignatius Catholic Cathedral in Shanghai Sept. 30, 2018. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images))
“These are regular transfers,” Corona told UCA News.
“The mission in Hong Kong is not closed. Taiwan is also not folding,” he continued, adding that replacements could be “expected within three months.”
The Catholic Church in China is unofficially split along political lines between the Communist Party-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Organization (CPCO) and the “underground church” that has attempted to evade CCP interference in their liturgy and hierarchy.
Pope Francis greets and blesses the children assisted by the Vatican’s Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary at the Paul VI Hall Dec. 19, 2021. (Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The CPCO Church is the only approved form of public Catholic worship in the country, as the CCP maintains tight grips on the appointment of bishops and celebration of sacraments, despite Vatican protests.
Catholicism poses a unique problem for the Communist nation, as its structure and governance grants the foreign pontiff authority over the spiritual lives of its followers.
The Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, a group of Catholic clergy and laity in India, wrote a letter to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai urging bishops to attend to the increasing attacks by far-right Hindu nationalist groups against Indian Christians, according to Crux Now.
Believers take part in a weekend mass at an underground Catholic Church in Tianjin Nov. 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File)
The letter pinpointed seven well-planned attacks against Christian institutions across India on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone, which contributed to the 486 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2021, making it the “most violent year” for the country’s Christians, according to the United Christian Front.
“What shocks us is the complete silence on the part of the official Church, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India,” said the letter to Gracias, who is president of the CBCI.