A Roman Catholic priest has warned that China's ultimate goal is "eliminate all religion," urging the Vatican to reconsider a major deal with the Communist government.
Father Paul of Hebei province, as the priest was identified by International Christian Concern, was responding to discussions about how Chinese Catholics should feel about the deal, when he said that the current Chinese regime's "ultimate goal is to eliminate all religion."
As evidence, Paul pointed to the revised Regulations on Religious Affairs that were implemented in February, and have seen church closures, congregants being detained, Bibles burned, and students being forced to sign documents renouncing their faith.
Other religious minorities, including Muslims, have also faced widespread crackdowns, including detentions at so-called "re-educational" camps.
Paul's warnings, which came in response to a recent Religious Affairs Committee seminar, also pushed back against government officials who are demanding that Catholics regulate their religious activities to protect government interests.
The controversial Vatican deal in question refers to allowing the Chinese government to select its own bishop candidates. The Holy See announced in September that it had reached a provisional agreement in order to end seven decades of conflict with China.
While supporters of the move have said it would lead to improved relations between the church and China, activists and other Christians have insisted that the Vatican shouldn't be legitimizing the atheistic regime.
"CSW is deeply concerned about the timing of this provisional agreement between the Chinese government and the Vatican," said Christian Solidarity Worldwide's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers last month.
"While we understand some of the motivations behind the Vatican's effort toward an agreement, there are significant concerns about the implications for freedom of religion or belief in China."
China Aid President Bob Fu added that while the Vatican's search for cooperation with China is understandable, the deal would serve as "nothing but a betrayal of both the millions of suffering persecuted Christians in China and the global Catholic Church."
"This could be a repeat of the 1940s Hitler's Germany, when the German state church consented to the persecution and slaughtered millions of Jews. Ironically, how can the Vatican respond with a good clear conscience for this appeasement deal while the CCP just launched a secret war vowing the wipe out of underground Catholics and Protestants?" Fu warned.
Pope Francis has vowed to take full responsibility for the move, however, and even said that he received a "sign from God" in the form of a message backing the deal.
"The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writ was from a bishop, let's say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God," Francis said at the end of September.
Still, the Roman Catholic leader admitted that "both sides [will] lose something."
"I think of the resistance, the Catholics who have suffered. It's true. And they will suffer. Always, in an agreement, there is suffering. They have a great faith," he said.