Catholic Patriotic Association

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Catholic Patriotic Association
FounderState Administration for Religious Affairs
Merged intoUnited Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party
Catholic Patriotic Association
Traditional Chinese中國天主教愛國會
Simplified Chinese中国天主教爱国会

The Catholic Patriotic Association (simplified Chinese: 中国天主教爱国会; traditional Chinese: 中國天主教愛國會; pinyin: Zhōngguó Tiānzhǔjiào Àiguó Huì), abbreviated CPA, is a state-managed nationalistic organization of Catholicism in the People's Republic of China. It was established in 1957 after a group of Chinese Catholics met in Beijing with officials from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Religious Affairs Bureau. It is the main organizational body of Catholics in China officially sanctioned and recognized by the Chinese government.

The organization is not recognized by the Holy Office. The organization is controlled by the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party following the State Administration for Religious Affairs' absorption into the UFWD in 2018.[1]


After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party sought for ways to bring religions in alignment with the communist cause. While all religions were seen as superstitious, Christianity had the added challenge of being foreign.

Efforts were made by Chinese Protestants in May 1950 in a meeting with Premier Zhou Enlai. This resulted in the penning of the "Christian Manifesto" that condemned foreign imperialism and argued for building a Chinese Protestant church apart from foreign control. This was based in part on earlier Protestant missiological strategy of creating an indigenous church based on the so-called "three-self principles": self-government, self-support, and self-propagation.[2]

In December 1950, Chinese Catholics followed suit, with Father Wang Liangzuo in north Sichuan province, penning the "Guangyuan Manifesto" and signed by some 500 Catholics. It declared:[3]

We are determined to sever all relations with imperialism, to do all we can to reform ourselves, to establish a new Church that shall be independent in its administration, its resources, and its apostolate.

— "Guangyuan Manifesto" (December 1950)

Other Catholic manifestos followed, such as the "Chongqing Manifesto" published in January 1951 with over 700 signatures. Similar to the Protestant "Christian Manifesto," the Catholic manifestos spoke of the need for a "three-self" or "three-autonomies" (as it was translated into English), even though this was previously only part of the Protestant missiological literature and not discussed among Catholic missionaries. Premier Zhou Enlai met with Chinese Catholics and spoke of his appreciation for the sacrifices of the Catholic Church and its missionaries, and the need to remain united with Rome on spiritual matters. But he also encouraged the development of the "three-self." Pope Pius XII issued Cupimus Imprimis (1952) and Ad Sinarum Gentes (1954) praising Chinese Catholics for their loyalty and underscoring the importance of martyrdom. Ad Sinarum Gentes additionally spoke out against the "three-self," arguing that independence would make a church no longer "Catholic."[4]

In July 1957, 241 Chinese Catholics from all parts of China, including laity, priests, and bishops, convened a meeting in Beijing with officials from the Chinese Communist Party and the Religious Affairs Bureau. They approved the creation of the Catholic Patriotic Association with Archbishop Ignatius Pi Shushi of Shenyang elected as president.[5] By early 1958, the first Catholic bishops were illicitly appointed without reference to Rome or the Pope. In June 1958, Pope Pius XII issued Ad Apostolorum Principis, refusing to recognize any consecrations performed without prior Vatican approval. The question of consecrating bishops would be a major sticking point in Sino-Vatican relations ever since.[6]

With the rise of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and the Cultural Revolution, all public religious activities came to an end and organizations like the CPA were shut down. However, as Deng Xiaoping's reforms enabled a restoration of religions in the 1980s, the CPA once again became the official state-sanctioned organization for Catholicism in China. A sizable population of Chinese Catholics remain as part of the so-called "underground church", seen as "Vatican loyalists", and who boycott masses said by CPA priests.[7]

The CPA does not recognize the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Pius XII in 1950, canonizations from 1949 onward (e.g. the canonization of Pope Pius X), Vatican declarations on even well-established devotional piety (e.g. on the Sacred Heart of Jesus or on Mary as Queen), and the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). In practice, however, the Catholic Church in China uses Chinese translations of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church (revised in 1997) and of the 1970 Roman Missal. These had at first to be imported from Taiwan and Hong Kong, but have been printed locally for some years.[8][better source needed]

In 1980, the CCP Central Committee approved a request by the United Front Work Department to create a national conference for religious groups.[9]: 126–127  The CPA was one of five such religious groups, which also included the Islamic Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Buddhist Association of China.[9]: 127 

In 2018, the CPA's parent organization, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, was absorbed into the United Front Work Department.[1]

Appointment of bishops[edit]

In 1978, Pope Paul VI offered a special faculty that opened up the possibility of bishops in the underground church to appoint new bishops. This was particularly important during a time when the last Vatican-approved bishops occurred in the 1950s, three decades earlier. Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan, the Bishop of Baoding, in 1981 became the first to make use of this special faculty and consecrated three bishops without any prior approval from the Holy See. Pope John Paul II retrospectively gave approval for Fan's actions, and gave further authority to Fan to consecrate more bishops without prior consent.[10] However, given the dire situation of the Catholic Church in China, Pope John Paul II gave permission to five bishops belonging to the underground church and four bishops connected to the CPA, all of whom were consecrated bishop between 1949 and 1955, the authority to appoint new bishops without prior approval.[11][12] It was precisely in that period that bishops ordained according to CPA rules began to request and obtain recognition from the Holy See.[citation needed]

In June 2007, fifty years after the establishment of the Catholic Patriotic Association, Pope Benedict XVI made publicly available a letter to the Church in China underscoring the importance of unity and outlining a willingness to engage in "respectful and constructive dialogue" with Chinese bishops and government authorities.[13][14] Following the letter, five new bishops associated with the Catholic Patriotic Association were ordained in 2007, all with papal and Chinese government approval.[15]

In September 2018, a provisional agreement was signed between the Vatican and the Chinese government that stipulated that China would recommend bishops for papal approval[16] and that the pope had the ability to veto any recommendations.[17] Pope Francis also recognized seven bishops of the Catholic Patriotic Association who were previously not in communion with the Vatican.[18] Some have raised concerns that the agreement would divide Catholics across China because it offers more control to the Chinese government.[19] Among the most outspoken critics has been the Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen, who published an opinion piece in The New York Times entitled "The Pope Doesn't Understand China," and asserting that this attempt at unifying the Chinese church will instead lead to the "annihilation of the real Church in China."[20] While the agreement has generally been recognized as far from perfect, it is also seen by Pope Francis as a step towards healing and the task of evangelization.[21][22]

In October 2022, the agreement was renewed for another two years.[23] In November 2022, the Vatican accused the Chinese government of violating the terms of the agreement.[24][25]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Joske, Alex (May 9, 2019). "Reorganizing the United Front Work Department: New Structures for a New Era of Diaspora and Religious Affairs Work". Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on 2019-07-21. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  2. ^ Wickeri 2011, pp. 127–133.
  3. ^ Charbonnier 2007, p. 431.
  4. ^ Chow 2021, pp. 10–12.
  5. ^ Charbonnier 2007, p. 434.
  6. ^ Bays 2011, p. 174.
  7. ^ Bays 2011, p. 192.
  8. ^ "Understanding the Roman Catholic Church in China" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 February 2014.
  9. ^ a b Guoyou, Wu; Xuemei, Ding (2020). Zheng, Qian (ed.). An Ideological History of the Communist Party of China. Translated by Sun, Li; Bryant, Shelly. Montreal, Quebec: Royal Collins Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4878-0392-6.
  10. ^ Lam 2011, pp. 22–23.
  11. ^ Lam 2011, pp. 25–27.
  12. ^ Zhu 2017.
  13. ^ Benedict XVI 2007.
  14. ^ Heyndrickx, Jeroom (12 July 2007). "Pastoral directives of Pope Benedict XVI for China". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 13 July 2022. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Pope Benedict XVI's Letter Inspired Church In China In 2007". UCA News. 3 January 2008. Archived from the original on 13 July 2022. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Vatican announces deal with China on bishop appointments". NBC News. Archived from the original on 22 September 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  17. ^ Rocca, Francis X.; Dou, Eva (22 September 2018). "Vatican and China Sign Deal Over Bishops, Allowing Pope a Veto". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Briefing Note about the Catholic Church in China". Holy See Press Office. 22 September 2018. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  19. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (22 September 2018). "Vatican signs historic deal with China – but critics denounce sellout". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 13 July 2022. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  20. ^ Zen, Joseph Ze-Kiun (24 October 2018). "The Pope Doesn't Understand China". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018.
  21. ^ Francis 2018.
  22. ^ Tang 2020, p. 51.
  23. ^ Pullella, Philip (2022-10-22). "Vatican confirms renewal of contested accord with China on bishops' appointments". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2022-10-22. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  24. ^ Pullella, Philip (2022-11-26). "Vatican says China violated pact on bishops, wants explanation". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2022-11-26. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  25. ^ Rocca, Francis X. (26 November 2022). "Vatican Says China Broke Agreement on Bishops". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2022-11-26. Retrieved 2022-11-26.


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