Russian Orthodox Church spreading its wings into China and seeking an alliance with state-run Catholic Church
Metropolitan Hilarion – one of the top brass within the Russian Orthodox Church, occupying the position of chairman for the department of external church relations (DECR) – has been dispatched to China to discuss the position of the Orthodox Church.
There’s much work for Hilarion to accomplish as currently the Orthodox Church is not a state recognised religion. The Orthodox Church has been trying for years to gain recognition in China and now is a good time to push following Putin’s high profile visit to China earlier this month, which served the purpose of consolidating the already strengthening ties between the two nations.
Hilarion’s visit can be viewed as an extension of Putin’s visit by virtue of a statement put out by the DECR, in which it was stated that participants “noted the contribution of religious confessions in the strengthening and expansion of cultural ties”.
One of the most intriguing elements to Hilarion’s visit was the fact that he was entertained “at some length” by ‘Catholic Bishop’ Ma Yinglin. The kicker is that Yinglin is the vice president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which was established in 1957 by the Communist Party and rejects the authority of the Vatican and the primacy of the Pope. The CPCA was originally set up by the Communist Party as they would not permit citizens to be loyal to a “foreign influence”.
There’s estimated to be some 12 million practicing Catholics within China, the majority of whom do not belong to the state sanctioned Catholic Church. The CPCA is reckoned to have some 5 million members. As the CPCA is obligated to tow the Comunist party line, it supports the One-child policy and as a consequence, abortion and contraception. CPCA clergy and Bishops are forbidden from talking on issues of divergence with the Vatican.
In recent times we have had a slew of reports on the CPCA appointing government approved Bishops and as this is taking place without Vatican approval, relations between the Vatican and Chinese government have intensified in tension, and has led to excommunication edicts from Rome.
There’s two interesting implications from all of this.
The first is: will endeavours to gain recognition for the The Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church succeed given that it is the daughter of the Russian Orthodox Church and could encounter the same problem as the Catholic Church; namely, members are potentially loyal to an outside political influence.
Secondly, what are the implications for the Orthodox / Vatican relationship?