The state-backed bishops have agreed to align the faith with communist ideals

China has launched a five year plan for the “development” of the Catholic Church, aimed at altering religious principles and practices to coincide with Chinese communist ideals. This plan was approved by the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics and the Council of Chinese Bishops, neither of whom is recognised by the Holy See.

The goal of this plan is to eliminate “foreign influence” and to ensure governmental control of all religious activities, including a submission of religious leaders to the Communist Party.

The groups have not released any specific details, but the five year plan will include “understanding the history of the church” in China, driving theological research, and emphasising evangelism. Architecture, arts and liturgy will also change in order to fit better with Chinese ideals.

The idea that religions should conform to Chinese principles has prevailed for many years but President Xi Jinping emphasized the idea in a 2015 address to the United Front, the overseeing body of all non-communist entities in China. During the address, Xi called for the eradication of outside influences on religion.

China and the Vatican are currently undergoing negotiations and are set to meet again next week. A May 18 article by the South China Morning Post quotes the Pope as saying he will not “compromise Catholic principles” by giving China the power to appoint their own bishops. However, China does not want to allow the Pope to appoint religious leaders, seeing it as an influence of Western ideals in their country.