The Chinese Communist Party’s senior figure for religious affairs has made it clear that Beijing intends to retain a tight grip on the Catholic Church.

Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the elite seven-man Politburo Standing Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told members of the official Church “to ensure that the leadership of the Chinese Catholic Church is held firmly in the hands of those who love the nation and the religion”, reported

Mr Yu spoke to about 100 bishops, priests, nuns and lay leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing at an event marking the 60th anniversary of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He made his comments amid continuing talks between Beijing and the Holy See about the normalisation of the appointment of bishops, the first step in a path that could lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations. But negotiations appear to have slowed in recent months because of an impasse over the fate of a handful of Beijing-appointed bishops.

During his speech, Mr Yu also encouraged Church leaders to “implement with self-awareness the basic direction of religious works” and “always to insist on the direction of Sinicisation of religion”.

The patriotic association, established in 1957, stands above the bishops’ conference. Both answer to Beijing, not the Vatican. The Vatican regards the patriotic association as being incompatible with Church doctrine, because its constitution advocates the principle of an independent Church. Its establishment in 1957 split China’s 10 million Catholics.

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