A priest in charge of a Henan parish complains about the ban on displaying sacred images and attempts by the faithful to accommodate government authorities. The faith cannot be abandoned or betrayed, nor can it be negotiated. What cannot be asserted or defended in public is not faith.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Fr Stanislaus is an elderly priest in a Henan parish. Speaking to a member of his congregation, who justified hiding sacred objects to obey local authorities, he said “The time of persecution has not yet arrived! [. . .] Should greater persecution come, one might understand your fear and betray Jesus Christ, but now, it's not the time yet! For the clergyman, hiding images is a bit like betraying Jesus Christ, especially since the Chinese constitution guarantees religious freedom.
it is public knowledge that a campaign is underway in various Chinese provinces (Henan, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, etc.) to remove sacred images, destroy crosses, wipe out religious signs and replace them with the Chinese flag and party slogans. This is part of a campaign to sinicise religion and implement new religious regulations.
The story that follows shows how local authorities are willing to pay people to obey the new rules, fearful of what their superiors might do. In his last words, Fr Stanislaus says that faith “should not be negotiated”, that believers should be “steadfast” in their faith.
When I fought for [seized] Church property, I organised demonstrations with the faithful several times, conducting sit-ins at the entrance of townhall. Only this way did we get a chance to talk with officials. Unfortunately, the result was not satisfactory, something is obvious given the current regime.
In private, an official told me: "It was not bad to demonstrate, because at least something moved". Then, for my ears only, he added: "For some time you have been promoting [demonstrations]. You should know this: even if you use the power of the masses, you can only attract the attention of some officials but never touch communist power. So, take advantage of this moment; otherwise who knows when it will be possible to solve the problems."
Recently, in a discussion on religious policy, one official said again: "You should realise that this is a communist world: you must follow what the leaders want; so, don’t push it, [you shouldn’t] study in depth the Constitution; above all, you should not be stubborn."
To that I said: "I do not want to be stubborn either, but I'm a priest. How can I be a priest if I do things contrary to the words of the Bible and Catholic doctrine?"
The official answered: "Let us then do everything through the Patriotic Association?"
I said: "They too are believers. But will they have the courage?"
The official did not answer.
A few days ago, a believer told me: "Village officials have been putting pressure on us for a long time, that we take away the sacred images. They tell us that they are willing to pay us, because if we do not, they will be in trouble.”
The believer asked: “Aren’t we legal? What have we done wrong with sacred images?"
[The officials] said: "We have not said that you are not legal. You have religious freedom and you can enter the church to pray, but we also have our job and above all our superiors checking up on us . . ."
I wanted to expand this discussion with the officials, but no one answers anymore.
Such is their world! A world contrary to laws and justice!
It is evident that among Communist Party leaders, many know how to discern what is true from what is false, but they live in in such a social context and can only adapt. Few have the courage to go against the current. In particular, when there are personal interests, they choose to betray their beliefs.
But we are different!
We are different!
We are men of faith. What is faith? Faith is the jewel that must be held onto for life! What can be abandoned or betrayed is not faith; what can be negotiated is not faith; what cannot be asserted and defended in public is not faith!
We are not accepted by the world; we are not loved by the world; we have often been boycotted with great opposition. This is normal. When we are persecuted, people rejoice and applaud. This is normal. Therefore, there is nothing surprising; we must persevere.
A believer told me: "I am not against faith; I only put the sacred images in the inside rooms."
I said: "One cannot!"
I was very angry.
The time of persecution has not yet arrived! Do we hide the faith only because of some small argument over faith? Should greater persecution come, one might understand your fear and betray Jesus Christ, but now, it's not the time yet!
Perhaps, it will be more difficult in the future but only by being steadfast can we be saved.
Jesus said: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father" (Matthew 10:32).
Even if you deny it informally, it is still a denial of faith.
Let me say this again: if you deny the faith, we shall no longer be Christian brothers. But this does not matter, because the important thing is your relationship with the Lord. If you want to come back, you'll find me again; otherwise, we'll never see each other again.
 During the Mao era, many churches and Christian institutions were seized "for the good of the people". Later, with the rise of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese government enacted a law to return assets to their rightful owners, unless they were used in the public interest. Many parishes and dioceses applied for the restitution of their property, often without success. Many assets had been registered as personal property of members of the Party and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. For more on this, see Church endures economic persecution as the Patriotic Association tries to seize Church property.