CHINA – VATICAN
New regulations ask Catholics to elect their bishops democratically and report to the state Sino-Vatican agreement two years later: To be a public servant or a soldier, people must deny their faith (V)
Christians are forced to choose between faith and work or enlisting. Universities ban students from Sunday Mass. Party members cannot absolutely practise any religion. These are ways the Party defends itself from the growth of Christianity in China. Fr Domenico, a priest from the north of the country, describes the situation. AsiaNews’s investigation into the situation of the Church in China continues two years after the signing of the provisional agreement.
Rome (AsiaNews) – In China one cannot be a civil servant and Catholic, nor can one join the military and be a Christian. These are but some examples of the persecution that takes place in the People’s Republic and which seem to have worsened since China and the Vatican signed a provisional agreement on episcopal appointments two years ago, which should either lapse or be renewed in September.
In his testimony, Fr Domenico, a priest from Northern China, lists the ways the church is controlled (CCTV cameras, registration, public security, etc.), apparently motivated by the discovery that Catholics and Protestants together outnumber the membership in the Chinese Communist Party.
Fr Domenico’s story is the fifth part of a series of investigative articles into the situation of the Church in China two years after the signing of the provisional agreement. Here are parts one, two, three and four.
After the signing of the provisional agreement on episcopal appointments, the attitude and actions of the Chinese government towards religion can be summarised as follows:
1. Towards the faithful
1.1 Recording the number of believers at national level
The faithful are required to provide their personal data, such as name, identity card number, gender, age, ethnicity, education level, address, etc. After obtaining this information, the Party and the government realised that the number of Catholics and Protestants far exceeds the number of Party members. This has raised great concern, like Herod fearing the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem.
1.2 Party members are strictly prohibited from holding religious beliefs. Party members are required to sign a pledge not to profess any religion; believers who are baptised in childhood and later enrolled in the Party must commit to no longer profess Catholicism, nor participate in religious activities.
1.3 Public servants and government officials who are not Party members, must sign a pledge not to profess any religion. Many believers who work for government agencies or public institutions betray their religion and abandon their faith for fear of losing their jobs.
1.4 Members of the Chinese Communist Youth Leaguemust abandon their faith or leave the League.
1.5 Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to profess a faith.
1.6 Religious believers are not allowed in the military.
1.7 Underground bishops, priests and nuns who are recognised by the government must first register with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), back the independent and autonomous Church and take part in its religious activities.
1.8 Religious activity outside registered religious places are not allowed.
1.9 The Church cannot engage in educational activity.
2. Towards religious communities
After vetting by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the Civil Affairs Department can register branches of the CPCAs as a legal person at the national, provincial, county and city levels. However, two thirds of Catholic dioceses have not yet registered as a legal person.
3. Towards religious sites
3.1 To implement the “Four entrances” programme churches must bring in the flag, the central values of socialism, religious beliefs, and traditional culture. Under the Party’s leadership, people must back the independent and autonomous Church and democratic principles, and defend themselves from the infiltration of foreign religious powers.
3.2 Many churches have been demolished, whilst others have had their religious signs, such as crosses and icons, removed.
3.3 In order to control all religious activities, the government requires churches to install CCTV cameras connected to the public security network.
3.4 Even registered churches are often shut down on pretexts like “the number of members is too small”. In fact, small numbers are the result of local officials suggesting they “not register too many members”. When this happens, the authorities can close churches down, claiming that they “cannot be used with so few people”.
This is what happens in my county: registration, “four entrances”, CCTV cameras, evangelisation ban among Party members and minors . . .
Many Catholics who are public servants or government officials betray their religion and abandon their faith for fear of losing their jobs, but their hearts are in trouble. When Catholics want to join the military, and pass all the checks, they cannot do so if they say they are Catholic.
In one case, a young Catholic man, who was baptised as a child, joined the Chinese Communist Youth League when he was in middle school. After enrolling in university, he was told to abandon his faith or leave the League, but since he was very attached to the faith, he decided to quit the League.
One university banned Catholic students from attending Sunday Mass. In one diocese three churches were torn down and the cross in two others was removed. The government also closed two parishes on the pretext that they had “too few members”.
Father Domenico, priest, North China