Discrimination at work and at school; masses once a week in dilapidated warehouses; checks carried out on the faithful and on the priests: the daily life of a member of the underground community. A rebuke for the media and its silence and an appeal not to forget them and to pray for them.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Full religious freedom does not exist in China; Christians are discriminated against at work and at school; the unofficial communities can barely guarantee one or two masses a week, in dilapidated warehouses, but at least not in the open air. This is what a young Catholic from the underground community reveals, in a letter sent to the editor of AsiaNews. Before and after the Sino-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops, the members of the unofficial community have been feeling "abandoned", "forgotten" and even "betrayed". Hence the cry of this young Catholic: we will always remain faithful, we forgive those who persecute us, but do not forget us. (Translation from Chinese by AsiaNews).
Dear Father Bernardo Cervellera,
first of all I wanted to thank you for your interest in the Church in China, especially for the difficulties of the Church "faithful to Rome". At present, this Church is still "underground" and the mass media now speak very little of it, but you are still interested in us and our small and fragile Church. For this I am very grateful to our good God, that there are some brothers and sisters in the Lord in Rome, who have not forgotten us even though we are on the other side of the world.
I am just a simple believer. I did not grow up in a Christian environment: as you well know, China is an atheist country. Anyway, I've been a Christian for about 20 years. To be honest, believing in God is difficult, even more difficult for us who live in Chinese territory. Witnessing to my being a Christian here is practically impossible.
For example, it is impossible to declare that you are a Christian when you are enrolled in a school or go for a job interview. The consequence would be immediate exclusion from school or non-employment for that job. In the last 30 years, the religious policy of the government has seen a loosening of controls on the Catholic Church. In particular, in the last 10 years, the underground Church has a certain space to move and breathe, but it cannot yet be said that in our country we have achieved full religious freedom.
I say this because, even though I myself have not yet encountered many problems because of my faith in Christ, who assures me that I will not have them in the future? Only God knows. Certainly I had some small problems: for example, about 10 years ago, the police came knocking on my door to question me, because of my faith.
As for the unofficial Church, the real situation in the last few years has improved a lot. At least we can celebrate mass once or twice a week. In the most remote areas, the faithful can only have mass once a month or sometimes even after a longer time. If the priest does not have to go outside, the faithful can also invite him for the anointing of the sick or elderly.
Of course, what I have described is the situation that any faithful person can see from the outside, but there are also many things that are not seen. The local police often go to find the priests of the underground Church to invite them to "speak". Often what we call "churches", in reality are not churches, but rented premises or simple houses. They are not ideal environments for the celebration: some look like warehouses, with doors and windows, but crumbling.
What matters to us is to help the priest to have a place to celebrate the Mass with dignity, so that Catholics are not forced to celebrate in the open air. This is already enough for us. But how long can this last?
We do not know. Bad news is circulating right now. For example, members of the underground community in the neighboring rural community of XXX have already received a notification from the authorities. What will happen tomorrow? We do not know either, but what we see is that the situation is becoming more and more tense. What is certain, regardless of the future difficulties, is that we of the underground Church will keep the faith, as always. We follow the example of our old bishop, who has been missing for several years, who has been faithful to the end: remaining faithful to the teaching of the Church, with an unshakable faith, surpassing "one wave after another". The whole world has witnessed the testimony of faith of the Chinese underground Church, in the past up to the present day; in the future it will be the same. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword??" (Romans 8, 35).
Dear Father Bernardo Cervellera, I am writing to you as a simple believer of the Church in China. Although I did not write much, everything comes from my personal experience. The Chinese underground Church has endured many years of suffering, but we have "joy in tribulation", we do not accuse anyone and we do not hold a grudge against those who persecute us. Indeed, for them we redouble our prayers: "Father, forgive them! For they know not what they do!" (Luke 23, 34)
Father, please do not forget us, pray for these brothers and sisters who are suffering.
A simple believer of the Chinese underground Church.
I wish every good to you and to all of Rome!