Churches have been shut down in Jiangxi and Fujian. Underground priests have been driven from their parishes. Young people under 18 have been dragged away from churches. Religions’ subordination to Chinese culture closely resembles the policy of Qing emperors. The Pope's authority must be subservient to that of the emperor. the Church must be part of the structures of the state and obey political authorities.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Has there been any change for the Catholic Church in China after the Sino-Vatican agreement? Is the situation better or worse in China? To find out, I visited several dioceses in the country and what I write here is the report of what is going on.
Even now, the Chinese government is promoting sinicisation[*], which entails the submission of religions to Chinese culture. This is very similar to the policy of Emperor Kangxi at the time of the Chinese rites controversy. All religions, especially Catholics and Protestants, must obey and follow this policy it.
In Fujian province, the Archdiocese of Fuzhou is the victim of persecution and violence. Almost all the churches that belong to the underground Church have been closed, especially in Fuqing. The government is trying to force underground priests to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
In his encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principi, Pius XII had already said that the purpose of this association was to gradually push Catholics to embrace the foundations of atheist materialism, denying God and rejecting religious principles. Even today it is seen as contrary to Catholic doctrine and a violation of people's conscience.
In Jiangxi, acts of persecution have also been reported, especially in the Diocese of Yujiang. Local government officials have often entered churches during ceremonies to forcibly drag out children and young people under the age of 18. The ban on religious education for children under 18 years is now enforced everywhere in China.
The government is thus going after both official and underground communities, even if the latter are the most affected. It has forced underground priests to leave the ministry and their parishes.
Even private homes are now considered "illegal places of worship", so Catholics risk fines and jail time if they meet. Prayer books, liturgical songs and Bibles have been seized in churches and everyone is forced to raise the flag.
Some local leaders thought that the persecution in Jiangxi and Fujian occurred because local Catholics are a small minority. In this sense, the new regulations and sinicisation were a kind of test, to see how much resistance it generated and to study how to defeat it.
Now the new regulations are enforced across the country, even in places like Hebei and Shanxi, where Catholics constitute a substantial percentage of the population.
Since the signing of the Sino-Vatican agreement, persecution has not diminished; on the contrary, it has gotten worse. The government continues to dream as if we lived at the time of the Qing dynasty: the pope’s authority must be subordinate to that of the emperor, and the Church is part of the structures of the state and must obey political authorities.
The government only views Christianity as a foreign religion and a potentially dangerous one. If Christians want to live in China, they must accept the principles of sinicisation. The aim is to force Christians, Catholics and Protestants, to accept the authority of the state above God and their faith.
The Communist Party knows that religions cannot be destroyed overnight. This is very clear and evident in a 1982 document by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
The latter read: “Those who think that with the establishment of the Socialist system and with a certain degree of economic and cultural progress, religion will die out within a short period are not being realistic. Those who expect to rely on administrative decrees or other coercive measures to wipe out religious thinking and practices with one blow are even further from the basic viewpoint Marxism takes toward the religious question. They are entirely wrong and will do no small harm.”
In practice, the so-called sinicisation is just another attempt to subjugate all religions, make them accept communist ideology and push believers to abandon their faith. As much as we are committed to dialogue, we should learn the lessons of history.
[*] This policy looks to Chinese culture to express the faith, and entails total submission to the Chinese Communist Party. See Bernardo Cervellera, “A new prison for the Church in China: Sinicization,” AsiaNews.it, 17 August 2018.