The Christian church must be surging in China, because the communist government is trying to rein it in by force.
Back in February of this year, new laws were passed in China that put severe regulations on the church:
Worship is allowed only in designated churches and according to a schedule approved by government administrators. Worship is illegal in every other place, including private houses.
Group prayer in private houses is forbidden, and can result in arrest. The regulations also require that every church must display at its entrance a notice that the building is “prohibited to minors under age 18” and that children and teenagers are not allowed to take part in religious rites.
Any one under the age of 18 cannot attend Mass? Holy crap that’s horrible.
We’ve reported before on the blasphemous actions of the government, asking churches to put up pictures of President Xi Jinping in their churches.
Since February there has been a movement by the government to Sinicize the churches, which means to “make Chinese in character or form.” And part of that movement is to remove external crosses and decorations from churches:
Crosses removed from the domes and the tympanum of Yining Church as well as external decorations and crosses, and the Way of the Cross within the church. The same happened at the churches of Manas and Hutubi. The Cross represents “a foreign religious infiltration”. Prayer services forbidden even in private houses under the threat of arrests and re-education. Children and young people forbidden to enter churches. Religious revival frightens the Party.
“A foreign religious infiltration”? I thought for a long time China was making progress on the Christian front, but it feels like they are going backwards quite rapidly now.
In fact a report from today details how a church was forced to not only remove their exterior cross, but also the “Catholic Church” inscription as well:
Yesterday, a brother priest of mine told me on WeChat: “Brother, our bishop called me saying to remove the cross and the inscription ‘Catholic Church’.” In the last two years this confrere has worked with great difficulty. There was no church in the area, and the diocese bought a two-storey shop and turned it into a place of prayer for the local faithful, since then the priest immediately organized the people to clean up and decorate the place. It was small, the transformation was successful and for Christmas the place was opened and used.The confrere did his best in every aspect: from designing the altar to buying the benches, he travelled thousands of kilometers to have everything new.
As the saying goes: “To do something you have to publicize it!” Just like in business: who can not hang a sign in front of his shop? As a sign, on the roof of the building the priest put the Cross and the inscription “Catholic Church”. However, the bishop had just attended the meeting organized by the local government, and the confrere received a phone call that required him to remove the sign that represents the faith.
When he contacted me, the sign of faith had already been removed. It had been done by people sent by the bishop or the local government – I did not ask him – but it was obvious that my brother was very sad. I believe he did not blame the bishop for not supporting justice. What saddened him most was why the justice of faith does not find the freedom to coexist in society so difficult.
Another church had to stop their catechism classes:
There is a parish priest in the diocese who received an order from the organization: the summer catechetical course must be suspended. The priest complained: my superior is the bishop, and only after receiving the written order from the bishop to suspend the course, can I suspend it. However, in the end, authority is always arbitrary: some parishes do not listen, but the majority are pressured and have stopped holding summer catechetical courses.
It’s also being reported that churches are being told to play the national anthem before services and fly the Chinese flag:
China’s nine major religious organizations want all religious sites across the country to raise the national flag on special days to reflect patriotism and Sinicization.
But some Catholics claim the initiative aims to force religious people to be patriotic. “Is it necessary to train believers to hold the ritual of raising the national flag and to play the national anthem before they can hold religious activities?” one priest asked.
To be clear this crackdown isn’t just targeting Christians, but also Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, etc.
This crackdown is dividing the Catholic Church between the churches that the government sanctions and the ones it does not, leading to persecution of the underground churches:
The Catholic Church in China has been split between the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities.
The underground churches are monitored by local officials but generally tolerated. However, many underground priests, bishops, and laity have faced persecution and harassment.
In other words it’s getting really bad in China again, all thanks to President Xi. I’m not sure that it’s every been great there, but when the government forbids that anyone under the age of 18 be permitted to attend Mass or participate in any Christian rites, they’ve just taken a huge step backwards. Clearly Xi is trying to cleanse the country of Christianity and he’s doing it with the youth. And it’s despicable.
I’ll be putting China back on my daily prayer list.