A document released by the Fujian authorities requires parish priests and religious personnel to ban minors A document released by the Fujian authorities requires parish priests and religious personnel to ban minors from church and education; to refuse relations with foreign Catholics; to curb any momentum of evangelization. Meanwhile, the “Global Times” celebrates the Vatican Museums Exhibition and some lectures on “Pope Francis” and “friendship” between China and the Vatican. For Beijing, agreements with the Holy See go hand in hand with the suffocation of the Church.
by Bernardo Cervellera
Rome (AsiaNews) – While enthusiastic news is spreading about the “first ever” Vatican Museums exhibition in Beijing (until July 7), or on the “first ever” University of Beijing conference on Pope Francis, to AsiaNews is receiving reports of a slow and inexorable suffocation of the Chinese Church, both official and underground. The driving force behind this suffocation is the term “independence” to which official bishops and priests must bow and to which even the underground must adhere if they wish to exercise their ministry.
The Chinese government sees “independence” as the rejection of the influence of “foreign powers”, including the Holy See (or as they say: the Vatican) and the submission to state regulations on religious activities, even if these give orders contrary to the Gospel. In this way, priests and bishops, official or underground, are being isolated from the universal Catholic Church and chained to the party wagon, which, though bestowing a minimum freedom of worship (controlled!), strips them of all momentum of evangelization.
One startling example is seen in a document sent to us from Fujian, entitled “Letter of commitment for those responsible for places of worship and for consecrated persons”. The priest can be pastor and exercise his ministry, within the limits provided, only if he signs the document otherwise he will remain unemployed and can be sent back to his home. The same for the religious sisters, “consecrated persons” (in China the government does not allow male religious life).
Among the most startling demands are:
1.Adherence to the fact that one must “prohibit the entry of minors into the Church”, or “not organize formation courses for minors”. How a priest’s conscience can obey this order is a mystery. In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Furthermore, that order is also contrary to the Chinese constitution which guarantees religious freedom without setting any age limits.
2. In the name of independence, “consciously boycott foreigners’ interventions; do not contact foreign powers, do not welcome foreigners, do not accept interviews, formation or invitations to conferences abroad “. In practice: remain isolated and do not share the faith with other Catholics scattered around the world. This also contravenes the UN Conventions on religious freedom and civil rights, which Beijing also signed on 5 October 1998, but which it never ratified.
3. A series of limits to evangelization: no singing without permission; no displays – not even at home! – of “manifestos and insignia” of “evangelical content”; you cannot post about religious topics online …
What is happening in Fujan, is also happening in Henan, in Hubei, in Zhejiang. It is precisely because of this pressure on “independence” – which is annihilation under the control of the Patriotic Association – that Msgr. Guo Xijin, auxiliary bishop of Mindong, withdrew his application for recognition from the government: being recognized means murdering the Church.
All of this is taking place while the agreement between China and the Vatican is applauded in Italy and China, and apparently conquering new ground. The “Global Times” (19/06/2019), a newspaper linked to the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, exalts that for the “first time”, the Vatican Museums exhibited objects in an exhibition in Beijing, which lasts until 7 July. Moreover for “the first time”, a conference was held “on Pope Francis and his vision” at Peking University, followed by 40 people, by Jesuit Benoit Vermander; for the “first time” a conference was held at the Academy of Social Sciences of the Chinese capital on “Growing in friendship – A perspective on Sino-Vatican relations”, by Antonio Spadaro, Jesuit, director of “Catholic Civilization”.
It would seem that China sees relations with the Vatican and control of the Church progressing on two parallel tracks: one has little to do with the other. It is possible to applaud “friendship with Pope Francis” and at the same time stifle and eliminate the local Church, “independent” from the Vatican, through a slow death prey to Chinese regulations.
Below is the complete translation of the Fujian document (translation by AsiaNews).
Letter of commitment for those responsible for places of worship and for consecrated persons
According to the “Regulations for religious affairs” and other related laws, the “List of responsibilities held by the heads of the Administrative Committee of religious places and consecrated persons” and the “Negative list of the heads of the Administrative Committee of religious places and consecrated persons”, As manager (consecrated persons) of ………, I promise to commit myself to:
1. love the Fatherland and love religion, to study and consciously follow the policies on religious affairs of the Party and the laws and regulations of the State, knowingly carry out activities according to laws and regulations, prohibit the entry of minors into the Church.
2. In the name of independence, autonomy and self-management, to consciously boycott foreigners’ interventions; not to contact foreign powers, not to welcome foreigners, not to accept any delegation from foreign religious communities or institutions, not to accept interviews, formation or invitations to conferences abroad, not to violate state regulations by accepting national and international donations.
3. not to market or distribute religious printed material without a serial number.
4. consciously accept the inspection and control of superiors and knowingly publish monthly accounts.
5. insist on sinicization, to consciously practice the fundamental values of socialism; to respect local cultures and traditions, to promote national cultures and traditions, not to spread the ideologies that support extremism, not to fund extremist activities.
6. not organize educational courses for minors, not carry out religious activities online, promoting vocations or post content that violates laws.
7. not intervene in the administration of village affairs or politicians, not intervene in the private and personal life of the people.
8. In the absence of permits, communities such as pastoral groups, choirs and bands cannot hold public events, nor, under the pretext of visiting the sick, evangelize in public places such as hospitals.
9. put up posters and signs outside and on roofs for evangelical purposes.
10. not install loud speakers externally, and those inside should not disturb the inhabitants, in case of violation, voluntarily accept sanctions from the Office for Religious Affairs.