CHCHINA – VATICAN
At least five parishes have been closed, with electricity and water supplies cut off. These include Fuan, Saiqi and Suanfeng. “Fire safety” measures given as a justification, an excuse for persecution. Some priests have been kicked out. A home for the elderly kept by the nuns is also closed. Of the thirty guests, some are hosted by relatives, others are homeless. Official bishop Zhan Silu bypassed by the United Front. Some priests speak of Holy See’s having “too lightly” signed to the agreement.
by Bernardo Cervellera
Rome (AsiaNews) – Msgr. Vincenzo Guo Xijin, former ordinary bishop of Mindong (Fujian) is now homeless and sleeping on the doorstep of his curia and clergy house in Luojiang, following the arrival yesterday of an eviction order for him and for the priests who work and live with him.
To speed up his eviction, all electricity and water supplies were cut from the building yesterday (see photo 1). Officially, the eviction is dictated for security reasons. A sign placed in front of the curia explains that the building – built with all permits over 10 years ago – does not respect the fire regulations and must therefore be closed. In reality, the police operation is a sign of official annoyance and an attempt to pressure the bishop and his priests who refuse to sign up to an “independent” Church.
Msgr. Guo Xijin is one of the “victims” of the Sino-Vatican agreement, which has transformed the diocese of Mindong into a kind of “pilot project” for the implementation of the accord.
Following the agreement and the lifting of the excommunication from the official bishop Vincenzo Zhan Silu, at the request of Pope Francis, Msgr. Guo agreed to be demoted to auxiliary bishop to leave the ordinary seat to Msgr. Zhan.
However, Msgr. Guo, never signed up for membership in the independent Church and thus has not been recognized by the government with the result that he has now been downgraded to the status of homeless and migrant.
The exact same fate has befallen many priests who refuse to sign up. In recent days at least five parishes have also been closed for reasons of “fire safety standards”. These would include two large parishes: Fuan, with over 10 thousand faithful and Saiqi, with approximately 3 thousand faithful (photo 2).
Fuan parish priest, Fr. Liu Guangpin, 71, is among those who rebuilt the life of the Church after the Maoist persecutions. Now he has been evicted and has no place to celebrate, but remains in Fuan. Instead, Saiqi parish priest, Fr. Huang Jintong, 50, was kicked out and sent away from the city.
In Saiqi, near the parish, on 13 January the government closed a home for the elderly, which welcomed and cared for those who have no home or relatives, managed by the Little Sisters of Mercy and Charity for almost 20 years (see video 1). The house housed over thirty people. Now some, who have relatives, have been able to find hospitality, but others have also been made homeless and now live without a fixed abode.
The justification of closures due to a failure to respect “fire safety standards” is merely an excuse for a white gloved persecution and the fact that Suanfeng, parish has been closed for those reasons clearly demonstrates this. The police kicked out the priest who failed to sign up. But almost immediately after, the official bishop Zhan Silu appointed another parish priest (who has signed up as a member of the “independent” Church) with the result that the church was reopened without any structural modification or repair being made.
There is a lot of pain and confusion among the faithful. For some days the Catholics of Fuan have been holding vigil day and night in the church where light and water have been cut (video 2). Several of them have made complaints and criticisms of Msgr. Zhan Silu fo failing to defend the freedom of the Church and who “seems more like a politician than a pastor”.
For his part Msgr. Zhan continues to ask resistant priests to sign membership in the “independent” Church to avoid more trouble, reminding them that this is the indication given by the Holy See in the Guidelines published last June.
But at least 20 priests out of 57 do not want to sign. They say the signature “is only the beginning of greater persecution and control”, which tends to make priests “party officials” who agree not to evangelize young people under the age of 18 – which runs contrary to the Chinese Constitution – and subjecting every initiative of evangelization to the supremacy of the Communist Party.
The United Front and the Religious Affairs Office, which manage the activities of religions and the Church, are determined to eradicate every element that does not submit and no longer respects even the episcopal authority of Msgr. Zhan Silu. According to some priests, Msgr. Zhan was kept in the dark about all the eviction operations against Msgr. Guo and the various parish priests. The United Front wants to force reluctant priests by threatening retaliation against their families: by evicting them from their homes or causing family members to lose their jobs.
Some priests speak of the Holy See’s Holy See’s having “too lightly” signed the agreement. “It is time for the Vatican Secretariat of State to wake up from their dream – they say – and acknowledge that it has made a mistake, otherwise it will be complicit in this situation.”