Catholic Church vs. China on Christmas Day

 Pope Benedict XVI Pictures, Images and Photos
Every Christmas Day the Pope addresses all Catholics from the Vatican. This year, he talked about Catholics that are having their ability to practice their religion threatened. He focused on the Middle East where violence and war is driving Christians from the region. He also focused on China where the government is making it tough for Catholics to follow the Pope.

The communist Chinese government does not like its citizens looking to anyone but them as their leader. The Pope on the other hand, does not like anyone but the Catholic Church to be the leader of Catholic people. This brings about a tug of war over Catholics in China. It is estimated that there are currently about 14 million Catholics in China, which is a very small minority in the most populous country in the world. If you look at the numbers alone it suggests that so far the Chinese government is winning the tug of war since the Catholic Church has only slightly over 1% market penetration. If you’re wondering why I’m using business terminology when talking about religion, it’s because that’s exactly what religions are…a business; but I digress.

It seems unlikely that the Pope will have a meaningful gain in the Catholic population of China in the future as well. Although China is likely to become less controlling and oppressive as the years go on, I don’t see the Pope being able to pick up the slack and successfully convert a large number of people there. The reason is that organized religions will play a less meaningful role in global society in the future compared to today. It is ironic however, that the oppression and control that the Chinese government is practicing over its citizens today will be the main cause for some people to convert to Catholicism in the future. Some people will grow to feel the need to be controlled and told what to believe. That will play right in to the hands of the Pope. I guess the two are not that different after all.