Officials of China’s United Front have removed a statue of Christ the King from the steeple of the church of Linjiazhuang in Shandong, replacing it with a lightning rod.
Calling Christian symbols on church rooftops “too visible,” the United Front also tore down crosses from the church of Wuda (Inner Mongolia) and from the church of Zhumadian (Henan), reported AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.
The removal of the statue of Jesus forms part of the program of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to “Sinicize” religion in China by expunging it of Western influence and making it more compatible with the tenets of Chinese socialism, the report said.
This program includes measures designed to “make the signs of the Christian faith ever less visible,” according to local observers.
The Sinicization campaign began in earnest in February 2018 with the publication of strict new regulations on religious activities. In enforcing the regulations, authorities have destroyed churches, crosses, paintings, and other Christian symbols, beginning in Henan, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia and spreading to Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and other provinces.
The regional Communist Party in Zhejiang had already demolished thousands of “overly visible” crosses from bell towers and church facades in an ongoing campaign that began in 2014. Though it started as a regional crusade, the campaign spread throughout China, and was replicated in Henan, Xinjiang, Shanxi, Hubei, and Guizhou.
The pace of destruction of Christian symbols has actually increased since the Vatican signed a historic agreement with the Communist Party over the appointment of bishops in late September 2018, AsiaNews reported.
In October 2018, just weeks after the Vatican signed its deal, Chinese authorities demolished two Catholic pilgrimage sites dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Government officials once again invoked “Sinicization” when destroying one of the sites, the shrine of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Dongergou (Shanxi), saying there were “too many crosses” and “too many holy paintings,” making the sanctuary unacceptable to standards set by the Communist party.
The second shrine, that of Our Lady of the Mountain in Anlong, was destroyed because it lacked the necessary “building permits,” authorities said.
During that same month, officials forcibly removed a cross from a church in Zhumadian Diocese in Henan province, demolished the cross at Lingkun St. Michael Church of Yongqiang Parish in Zhejiang province, and removed two more crosses at Luoyang Catholic Church in Henan.
This past September, the CCP forced Christian churches across Henan province to replace the Ten Commandments with quotes from President Xi Jinping as part of its Sinicization project.
One pastor from a state-run Protestant church said that the CCP’s latest move was part of a systematic plan to erode Christian doctrine in the country, adding that the ultimate goal of the party is to “become God.”
“The government’s first step is to prohibit religious couplets” said the pastor, who spoke under the condition of anonymity. “Then it dismantles crosses and starts to implement the ‘four requirements’ by ordering the national flag and ‘core socialist values’ to be placed in churches.”
“Surveillance cameras to monitor believers and religious activities are then installed. The last step is to replace the Ten Commandments with Xi Jinping’s speeches,” he said.
“The Communist Party’s ultimate goal is to ‘become God.’ This is what the devil has always done,” he said.