27 May 2016
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    » 03/29/2016, 14.48


    The miracle of conversions and baptisms in China

    Wang Zhicheng

    An estimated 20,000 people were baptised on Easter night. Just outside Shanghai, 27 baptised people join a community of 100. Rampant materialism and individualism drive people to convert. Underground communities celebrated Easter without songs and in small groups.

    Beijing (AsiaNews) – On Easter night, more than 100 adults were baptised in Beijing’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (pictured). Wrapped in a white robe, accompanied by godparents, they confessed their adherence to faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose again, baptised by Archbishop Joseph Li Shan.

    The same ritual was repeated in all of China’s Catholic churches during Easter eve vigil. In recent years, more than 20,000 new believers are baptised at this time of the year.

    Some 27 baptisms took place in a parish just outside of Shanghai, in an area home to almost a million people. The local congregation includes only a hundred members; hence, with the newcomers who joined on Easter night, the community has grown by more than 25 per cent.

    Christmas, Pentecost and the Assumption provide other occasions for baptisms. About 100,000 adult baptisms occur each year in the Catholic Church.

    The number of annual baptisms in underground Protestant Churches (not subordinated to the government-controlled Three Autonomies Movement) is even higher.

    For the government, in particular the Religious Affairs Ministry, the rising number of Christians in the country is a source of concern. Some estimates put the number of Christians at around 100 million, more than the number of members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), estimated to be around 85 million.

    For some observers, the Communist Party itself is to blame for the growth of Christianity in the country. As theoretical and practical materialism drive people to seek wealth and consumption, people are left bereft of meaning.

    For many of the newly baptised, economic wellbeing “was not enough”. They sought “something deeper”, i.e. “non-material values”. A bishop in central China described this as “a great thirst for God”.

    Materialism has led to widespread individualism and exploitation. Many people – especially migrants who moved to the cities to work – feel alone and with no one to help them. Paid low wages, they are treated like slaves.

    "After I met some Catholics, I felt accepted and welcomed as a person with dignity, not valued for my wealth or poverty,” said one of the newly baptised.

    This year’s Easter celebrations took place without tensions. Police told believers to carry out their services "without singing and in small groups”, and even underground communities were able to hold Masses and liturgical services without much of a fuss.

    In Zhejiang, where crosses and churches have been targeted for demolition, Zhang Kai, a Protestant lawyer was released not long ago after six months in jail.

    Detained for defending his co-religionists against abuses, he thanked “Wenzhou police for taking care of me all this time".

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    See also

    15/06/2004 china
    An ancient church becomes home to two Protestant communities.

    01/08/2005 IRAQ
    In Mosul 81 children meet the challenge of their First Communion

    21/07/2005 CHINA
    Shanghai church draws Korean pilgrims
    Church building was torn down and rebuilt as part of Pudong district's redevelopment plans. Koreans visit the site to see relic of Saint Andrew Kim, the first Korean martyr.

    14/07/2009 CHINA - VATICAN
    Cardinal Zen: The Church in China two years after the Pope's Letter
    Misinterpretations of the Letter have led to confusion and distress in the underground community. The official bishops must have more courage in their faithfulness to the pope, refusing structures that are contrary to the Catholic faith. The Chinese government continues its usual policy: total control of the Church.

    02/11/2010 CHINA
    New bishop of Nanchang (Jiangxi) ordained, underground Catholics also present
    The new bishop, Mgr. John Baptist Li Suguang, tells AsiaNews of his desire to work for unity between the two communities, underground and official living in the diocese. So far this year, nine bishops have been ordained in China.

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