05/25/2017, 14.30
VATICAN - CHINA

AsiaNews symposium: our faith caught between police dogs and careerism, says Chinese priest

The story of a priest from the official Church is presented at the AsiaNews Symposium, with the Church’s internal and external problems included. Up to 21 bishops bless a small factory for US$ 500 each. Priest asks for a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – CCTV cameras on churches, soldiers monitor religious activities, police dogs used to trace drugs on priests, interference in catechism scheduling and participation are some of the constraints that a Chinese priest has experienced in his daily mission. in his account, the priest – from an official community in central China – looked at the Church’s internal problems, due also to the half-hearted faith of bishops and priests, attracted more by money and career prospects.

The priest’s story is one of many that were read at the AsiaNews Symposium, held yesterday, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. Speakers included Prof Richard Madsen, Mgr Savio Hon, Fr Gianni Criveller, and Fr Bernardo Cervellera.

Dear brothers and sisters,

First of all, I am extremely grateful to all of you dear brothers and sisters for praying for the Chinese Catholic Church. I believe that I shall be with you in spirit since I cannot be there in body. May God bless the Chinese Catholic Church through the intercession of our Holy Mother Mary, Our Lady of China.

The situation of the Catholic Church in China is getting more complicated and difficult. There are some differences among the various dioceses since they are located in different provinces, but all of them are in the same boat, which is under the control of the Chinese government. Based on my experiences of mission in my city and my knowledges from other places, the situation of the Catholic Church in China could be resumed two ways: troubles from without and anxiety from within.

China’s power structure is inconsistent and two-sided. On the one hand, the Chinese government wants to show the world that China has freedom and democracy; on the other, it imposes strict controls on whomever it wants. The Catholic Church of China is an important actor that is constrained, monitored, and spied upon by those in power.

Constraints

Before religious activities take place, military patrols beef up police, and the authorities send officials to question bishops or priests. If the religious activity is very important and solemn such as episcopal ordinations, they can block roads and streets, even residential districts. They can ban pedestrians and car drivers from the ceremonies in question, except for those authorised to take part in them. Last year, during an Episcopal ordination in my diocese, they did all the things mentioned above and more. Police and canine units checked all the rooms in a hotel near our Church where many attending priests were staying.

Monitoring

CCTV cameras have been installed on and near churches. One is just in front of the gate of the Church in my city. We don`t know where others are installed. But we are sure that they have some monitoring our church. One worshipper who works in an government office was seen coming to church. The evidence comes from a monitor showing the worshipper in the church courtyard. [This has had an impact on his career]. This happens not only in my diocese but also in other dioceses.

Spying

Religious life faces limitations. For example, if we organise Bible studies or other church-related activities, the authorities impose restrictions on the number of participants, on teachers and on schedules. Recently, one priest in my diocese planned a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai. The authorities were alerted and denied him the authorisation to go to Shanghai or Sheshan so the pilgrimage was called off.

The Catholic Church of China also faces some internal crises. First, many bishops and priests have been drawn into the Chinese government. They don`t preach the mission of the Church any more, but show their alignment with the government even in the Mass. They say what the government likes.

Secondly, some of bishops and priests are keen in getting official positions. They are proud of this and seek higher status in the pursuit of their careers.

Thirdly, some bishops and priests indulge in material things. One classic example occurs in my diocese. Every year some bishops are invited by a small boss in my city to bless a factory, then that boss will give each some money. One year, 21 bishops came from different dioceses for that purpose. Each got 3,500 yuan (US$ 500). This year, we can expect bishops to come.

The above is my experience in the mission and the context in which I live. It is also the reality of the Chinese Catholic Church.

Let me thank you for your prayers. We need them continually. May God strengthen our faith and place our hope in God`s hands, and dedicate the Chinese Church to Our Lady of China.

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