According to a report by China expert Steven Mosher, the Catholic Church has suffered increasing persecution by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since it signed an agreement with the Vatican in 2018.

The Church in China has long been divided between the “underground” Church, in full communion with Rome, and the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which is loyal to the CCP rather than the Vatican.

The CCP, in 2018, reached an agreement with the Vatican on the appointment of Catholic bishops in the country. Through this agreement, the appointment of bishops would no longer fall to the Pope but would be a shared and negotiated task between the Vatican authorities and the CCP.

The CCP, says Mosher, in his article for the National Catholic Register, intended the agreement to serve as a tool to force bishops and clergy of the underground church to join the Patriotic Association.

As Breitbart News reported last November, a growing number of China’s Catholic faithful have criticized the Vatican’s agreement with the CCP, insisting that it has emboldened officials in their persecution of Christians.

According to Mosher, the Vatican and the CCP had very different goals in mind when they signed the controversial 2018 agreement, but while Beijing walked away having achieved everything it set out to do, the Vatican achieved nothing to resolve its objectives.

The Vatican’s supposed purpose was to create a mechanism by which it could collaborate with the CCP in appointing new bishops, and thereby get the CCP to recognize the Pope’s authority over Catholicism, which would allow him to intercede to try to bridge the gap between the “underground” church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

“It is safe to say, nearly two years after the signing of the agreement, that while the Chinese Communist Party has achieved its goals, the Vatican clearly hasn’t,” Mosher says. With only five “underground” bishops finally accepted to date, it can be said that the agreement was only used for the persecution of both the underground Church and the CCPA.

The report states that the situation in China for followers of all religions (Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim) deteriorated sharply as part of CCP dictator Xi Jinping’s plan to bring all religious practice in the country under the absolute control of the CCP.

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, Mosher says, the CCP is carrying out “a new Cultural Revolution, the specific targets of which include all organized religions and all religious believers. The goal is not simply to restrict and control all religious activity and belief, it is to completely replace such activity and belief with worship of the CCP, its ideology, and its leaders.”

As Breitbart News reported last month, Chinese authorities have threatened Christian citizens, especially the poorest, with the suspension of all social benefits unless they remove Christian images from their homes and replace them with portraits of Xi and Chairman Mao Zedong.

“The CCP conceives of itself as a secular religion and is determined to impose that religion on the people of China by deploying all of the considerable resources that a hi-tech, one-party dictatorship has at its disposal,” Mosher warns.

In contrasting politics, President Trump has stressed, since the beginning of his term, the importance of the world’s governments ensuring religious freedom for their citizens. On June 2, he issued an executive order making religious freedom for all people around the world a U.S. policy priority. And he pledged to ensure that his government will vigorously respect and promote that freedom, including abroad.

Earlier this year, President Trump concluded a speech by saying, “Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions.”

These strong ideals, based on religious faith and freedom, are in sharp opposition to the fundamental basis of atheistic and dictatorial communism. Consequently, they add one more factor to the gulf between the United States and the CCP.