Chinese Catholics Say Vatican-China Accord Fuels Christian Persecution

Chinese Catholics attend a mass on Holy Saturday, part of Easter celebrations at Beijing's government sanctioned South Cathedral on March 31, 2018. Chinese Catholics are taking part in Easter celebrations as China and the Vatican continue talks on a historic agreement on the appointment of bishops in China. / AFP …
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

ROME — A number of the Chinese Catholic faithful have expressed regret over the Vatican agreement with the Chinese Communist government, saying it has emboldened officials in their persecution of Christians.

While the Chinese-Vatican agreement is not the direct cause of this persecution, the accord emboldens government authorities, who claim that “the Vatican supports us,” local Catholics of the diocese of Handang told AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

The agency also reported that the government has decreed that it will demolish another 40 Christian churches.

At the church in Wu Gao Zhang, in the Guantao district of Hebei, the faithful are pushing back against a government decree to demolish the church with the excuse that the building lacks the appropriate permits, despite its recognition by the government.

At 6:00 am Thursday morning, faithful and priests barricaded themselves inside the church in an effort to prevent the Chinese government from tearing the building down.

Since the middle of the last century, the Catholic Church in China was split between the state-controlled “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association” and the underground Church that was faithful to Rome.

Following the Sino-Vatican “provisional” agreement on the naming of bishops, signed between the two parties in September 2018, the crackdown on unofficial Christian communities has reportedly escalated as the government has amped up pressure for all believers to enlist in the party-approved association.

Just weeks after the Vatican signed a deal with the Communist Party, authorities demolished two Catholic pilgrimage sites dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Officials destroyed the shrine of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Dongergou along with Our Lady of the Mountain, in Anlong (Guizhou).

The shrine in Dongergou was reportedly torn down in the name of “Sinicization,” because according to government officials, there were “too many crosses” and “too many holy paintings,” making the sanctuary unacceptable to regulations set by the Communist party.

The following month, government officials arrested four priests of the underground Catholic Church for refusing to join the Catholic Patriotic Association.

Police abducted two priests of the Diocese of Xiwanzi — Fr. Zhang Guilin and Fr. Wang Zhong — and two more from the diocese of Xuanhua — Fr. Su Guipeng and Fr. Zhao He — for the purpose of “indoctrination,” AsiaNews reported.

This past July, authorities from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hosted a week-long training program for Catholic priests who have enlisted in the Catholic Patriotic Association, organized around the theme “Guiding the Catholic Church to follow a path conforming to socialist society.”

At the seminar, priests were instructed to promote socialism, sinicize Catholicism, place their country ahead of their faith, and develop “an independent, autonomous and democratic Church,” free of Rome’s authority.

Thirty-three priests from various parishes in the diocese of Mindong and over 20 religious affairs officials from Ningde took part in this training course. Lessons were given by members of the CCP and United Front, university professors, and bishops of the Patriotic Association.

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