04/07/2012, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN

Police pressure on underground community. Easter in the Church of Silence

Wang Zhicheng
Controls stepped up ahead of the change of leadership at the next Party Congress. A campaign to "convert" underground communities to the official Church and subject them to government policy. Arrests, "dialogue" and "study sessions".

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Easter holiday will be "very discreetly" celebrated this year in unofficial (underground) communities in China. Many community leaders, bishops and priests, were in fact called in by the police for a "conversation" and even underwent weeks of indoctrination on the government's religious policy. Several Church observers clearly see a campaign underway to "convert" the underground Church and absorb it into the official church.

"This year - an underground priest told AsiaNews - we will celebrate Easter in silence and discretion, without any solemnity. In other years, we had to find locations big enough so we could celebrate  together. This year, we will celebrate Easter in small groups. Like every year there will also be the baptisms of adults and children. In my parish there are 10. There are less than usual this year because we wanted to raise the level of formation, and follow the rules of the Church, to give at least a year of catechism. "

According to the priest, the discretion and silence of this year is due to the fact that the police are rather restless: in October there will be a leadership change, with a new president and a new prime minister who will replace Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao.

The priest said that he and other colleagues have received an invitation from the police to call in for a "conversation" in which they promised to "be calm".

"In other parts of China - said the priest - is a bit 'more dramatic, like in Wenzhou and Tianshui".

In Wenzhou (Zhejiang), the coadjutor bishop, Mgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, and the chancellor, Fr. Paul Jiang Sunian were called by police on March 19, "invited" to a "study session" for at least a week. Bishop Shao, 49, directs the "underground" community of Wenzhou. Appointed by the Holy See and consecrated bishop in 2007, to promote integration between official and unofficial, the Holy See decided that Mgr. Shao would be the coadjutor bishop, while the ordinary is Msgr. Vincent Zhu Weifang. The two communities are still struggling to integrate. But the police are trying to "facilitate" this by pushing the underground community to become part of the official Church, by signing the accession to the Patriotic Association and the idea of ​​a Church independent of the pope.

According to sources cited by Eglises d'Asie, the dialogue between the police, Msgr. Shao and priests have also focused on the situation of Tianshui (Gansu), where for several months, there is a new underground bishop in the person of Mgr. John Wang Ruohan, former administrator of the diocese. Since January, Msgr. Wang and some of her priests are being subjected to "study sessions" on the government's religious policy.

Similar events occurred in Hebei and Inner Mongolia. According to observers, there seems to be in a clear policy to wipeout the underground community.

On 2 March, in front of representatives of the council of Chinese bishops (official) and the Patriotic Association, a senior official from the United Front - which also controls religious affairs - claimed that the two organizations should strive to achieve good results for "the conversion of the underground community." Of course the term "conversion" means the total submission of the community to Chinese government policy directives.

 

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