The Vatican announced the designation of Antonio Li Hui, a new bishop for the city of Pingliang, Gansu province, on July 28, according to Vatican News.
The new bishop graduated from the National Seminary of the Catholic Church in China and was ordained a priest in 1996.
According to Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis appointed Antonio Li Hui on Jan. 11, 2021.
The designation comes in the framework of a 2018 agreement between Pope Francis and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Five bishops have already been appointed within that framework. Previously, Bishops were appointed internally by the Chinese Church and were usually opponents of the CCP.
Such an agreement raised several criticisms as the elected bishops have to swear allegiance to the CCP, thus moving away from orthodox practices of Catholicism. Other objections arose because the CCP has a long history of carrying out religious persecution, and believers have been a continuous target of attacks.
However, when the CCP infiltrates the church, it can now control the “faithful,” who find pictures of communist leaders hanging on the walls instead of images of Jesus Christ.
Senior CCP officials presented a program to “Sinicize” all religious practices, insisting that they must be “Chinese oriented.” Furthermore, the CCP states that the government should provide operational guidance for religions to adapt to socialist society.
In a statement signed by the country’s top Catholic leaders, they said, “We vow to walk a path suitable for a socialist society, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The Role of the Pope in China, before Francis
The CCP has always categorically rejected the figure of the Pope and his authority to appoint bishops.
Throughout history, under all previous Popes, the Vatican refused to recognize the bishops “appointed” unilaterally by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a cell created by the CCP to control Catholicism in China.
The Vatican and the Chinese regime are increasingly strengthening their diplomatic relations, which were severed in 1951, shortly after the entry of communism to China.
According to various reports, in December 2017, before sealing the agreement, Pope Francis sent a Vatican delegation to China to force Bishop Peter Zhuang of Shantou to “retire” or be demoted so that the CCP could establish its bishops coming from churches authorized by it.
In China, all bishops and priests of the Patriotic Catholic Association of China must be members of the Chinese Communist Party, so they swear their unconditional loyalty and give their lives to it.
The rapprochement of the Vatican with China was touted as a good thing; however, under the conditions mentioned above, Pope Francis is recognizing and legitimizing priests who pledge their allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party, which is atheistic by nature.
However, Catholicism has God and the Holy Trinity as its pillars of worship, opposite to what the CCP preaches.