Recent rumors about better relations between China´s central government and the Vatican has put attention to the small but influential following of the Vatican in China. Author Ian Johnson of the forthcoming book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao elaborates at the NPR.
Ren (Yanli, an expert on Chinese Catholics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing) says for China, this is an issue of face. And you might think that for the Vatican, the appeal would be China’s 1.3 billion souls and the potential to attract them. But Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson says it’s more than that.
Johnson, the author of a forthcoming book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, says for the Vatican, this is primarily about those who are already with the church.
“It’s a way to help Catholics in China so that they’re part of legitimate church,” says Johnson. “And I think from Beijing’s point of view, it’s a way to make sure this small but perhaps influential group of Chinese is under some sort of structure the [Communist] party could feel comfortable with. They don’t like having an underground church. They want to bring everybody into the fold.”
Officially, there are eight bishops in China, appointed by the government-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The Vatican doesn’t recognize them. Then there are 30 Vatican-approved bishops, whom China’s government won’t recognize.
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