Last week, Pope Francis sent a message to Chinese Christians urging them to be 'true Christians and good citizens'. He didn't mention the growing persecution they face under President Xi's programme of sinicisation, despite the Vatican-China deal of 2018 under which Francis recognised China's puppet Catholic Church in return for state tolerance of 'underground' Catholics faithful to Rome.
Conveniently for both sides, the text of the deal has never been made public. Essentially, the Pope kept his part of the deal while Xi has used it to try to force together the official and unofficial Chinese Catholic Churches under the umbrella of – it goes without saying – the Chinese Communist Party.
In this week's Holy Smoke episode, I'm joined by regular contributor Ed Condon, Washington bureau chief of the Catholic New Agency. He discusses possible reasons for the Pope's total silence on Chinese abuses of human rights generally and persecution of religious believers in particular.
I have just had a Chinese priest in tears in my office. He is a sane and sensible man who teaches in a seminary run by the Patriotic Association. His words: 'Betrayal and another betrayal. The police will use "Be a good citizen" to persecute us all'
Please listen to the podcast.