Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Card John Tong, bishop of Hong Kong, issued an urgent appeal today against the demolition of crosses in the province of Zhejiang, a practice that has already touched more than 1,000 crosses in Catholic or Protestant churches.
In his appeal, the prelate calls on the Chinese government to stop these "unlawful acts” because many dismantled crosses and buildings had all the required permits.
The campaign against the crosses and Christian buildings began in early 2014, Zhejiang party secretary when Xia Baolong saw that the skyline of the city of Wenzhou (Zhejiang) had "too many crosses."
Many Christians suspect that the real aim is to reduce the impact and influence of Christian communities, both official and underground, in Chinese society, which has seen a dramatic rise in conversions.
The campaign has sparked resistance among Catholic and Protestant believers, clergymen, and bishops, who use open letters, social media and demonstrations to express their dissent against this blatant injustice. Some believers and priests have been arrested.
As the campaign against cross destruction finds support abroad, Hong Kong’s Cardinal Tong calls on Hong Kong Catholics to pray and fast for religious freedom in China, sharing “the sufferings of their fellow Christians in Zhejiang”.
Cardinal Tong seems to be responding to a request from Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, the official bishop of Wenzhou, and his priests, who proposed rosaries and fasting to protect the faith and the crosses.
Here is Cardinal Tong’s appeal:
The Sufferings of the Cross – an Urgent Appeal
The cross is the sign most representative of the Christian faith. As Christians, we must follow Christ. That requires us to carry the cross together with Jesus Christ.
Over the past two years, the crosses erected at over a thousand churches, Christian or Catholic, in Zhejiang province have been dismantled by force. Those dismantled include many that have been lawfully constructed with permits. In some of these incidents, members of the clergy and congregation, during their lawful act of defending their faith, have been detained, causing a lot of tension in local parishes. These incidents have caused much anxiety among Christians, local and overseas, about the policies of the government in regard to freedom of religion.
With utmost sincerity and urgency, I wish to make the following appeal:
John Card. TONG
August 13, 2015