BEIJING, China — The president of China’s state-sanctioned bishops’ conference has pledged to work with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to develop the Sinicization of religion in the communist nation. reported that Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming spoke after Wang Zuoan, deputy minister of the United Front Work Department, visited the patriotic association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China in Beijing.

Ma said the association and the conference would live up to the trust of the Communist Party and the government.

“In the new year, they will work hard, unite as one heart, think seriously, strive to practice, work according to the situation, and continue to make greater and better progress on the path of the development of Sinicization for gaining a satisfactory result for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.

On his visit to Beijing, Wang said work on the election and consecration of bishops and the transformation of underground bishops must be done well. reported Wang called on the patriotic association and the bishops’ conference to “maintain a high sense of responsibility and mission and lead the mass believers of the Catholic Church to continue to study through Xi Jinping’s new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

They also should “make progress on the road of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the church and operating the church democratically.”

Wang said it is necessary to constantly explore and practice the direction of Sinicization — modifying by Chinese influence — to strengthen the revision and improvement of systems, while it is important to “let the five-star red flag fly high in church courtyards.”

He said it is also important to formulate a plan for managing dioceses appropriately.

Ma was ordained as a bishop in 2006 without a papal mandate. In 2010, he was elected president of the bishops’ conference and vice chairman of the patriotic association. Neither organization is recognized by the Vatican.

On Sept. 22, 2018, Pope Francis lifted the excommunication of Ma and six other bishops appointed by the Chinese government without a pontifical mandate. That came a few hours after the Vatican and the Chinese government had signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops.

The pope’s forgiveness was seen as part of the process toward healing the Chinese Church.

“Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics,” the Vatican said in a statement.