Christian persecution in China could worsen if the communist nation strikes a deal with the Vatican on ordaining Chinese bishops, some Christian watchdog groups have warned Pope Francis.
The Communist Party has refused to recognize the authority of the pope in the last few decades, and the Chinese Catholic Church has been appointing its own clergy. However, CNN published a report indicating that the decades of cold ties between China and the Vatican could be coming to an end.
In an interview with The Christian Post earlier this week, China Aid president Bob Fu said the Vatican's support for China in ordaining its own bishops could further embolden the communist government to make the lives of "house church" believers much worse. The warning comes amid news of improving ties between the Chinese government and the Vatican.
"A partnership between the Vatican and the Chinese government would worsen the lives of house church Christians," Fu told the Post in the interview. "The Communist Party already targets clergy who are not ordained by the state as illegitimate, which leads to persecution, and having the Vatican's backing gives them a further excuse to do so."
In addition, Fu said the deal with Vatican could empower China to persecute Christians who do not conform to the government's brand of the Christianity. He said the deal would show that the Vatican supports the Communist state's version of the Christian faith.
Recently, China Aid has found that more than 80 Christians in northwestern Xinjiang were arrested in the days surrounding the Lunar New Year for attending gatherings in house churches. The members of the Fangcheng Fellowship in Urumqi were accused of "engaging in religious activities at non-religious sites" and were arrested for refusing to register with the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church.
In another incident, six other believers were also detained by authorities for 15 days. They were fined 1,000 Yuan for attending a Christian gathering.