Priests forced to attend government training courses; underground clergy seized to convince them to join the Patriotic Association. Catechism classes closed; minors removed from churches; sacred buildings under construction blocked, closed or seized. Two years after the agreement, there are far greater difficulties.
Rome (AsiaNews) - Two years after the Agreement between China and the Vatican, repression towards Christian communities, both official and underground, has grown. These two testimonies, part of an ongoing AsiaNews investigation (click here) are witness to this. Francis highlights the pressures that all priests receive and the arrests-kidnappings that clandestine priests face, to convince them to join the Patriotic Association. And he concludes that "the underground Church and its faith are facing the greatest difficulties".
Teresa, a lay catholic from the south-east of the country, points out that the ban on minors under the age of 18 from attending Mass and catechism (which is in fact contrary to the Chinese constitution) is systematically applied. The suffocation campaign leads the authorities to block and close even sacred buildings that have already received building permits. Two years after the "panacea" of the famous Agreement, government religious policies "have not been loosened, in reality they have been further tightened". (B.C.)
After the signing of the Sino-Vatican Agreement, the religious policies of our diocese have not been loosened, in reality they have been further tightened. Authorities often gather priests for training courses, push underground priests to join the Patriotic Association, arrest them by taking them to secret places to brainwash them. They even go as far as to claim that the religious policies remain the same with the Agreement, that they have not changed. Before the Agreement some parishes could still celebrate Mass in the homes of the faithful; with the Agreement, however, temporary places of prayer have been closed; the faithful who host the Mass are threatened, arrested and fined, and they are forced to sign a document in which they promise that they will no longer host the priests. With the Agreement, the bishops of the underground diocese are illegally arrested. The underground Church and its faith are facing the greatest difficulties.
Francis, priest, northeastern China
In these two years, the diocese has faced increasing pressure. For example, on Sunday, the government sends its staff to church to check in the morning.
Some sit in front of the entrance, others sit in the back rows, others wander around here and there: their purpose is to check the functioning of the church and its activities. Furthermore, the staff who remain in front of the entrance check that children under the age of 18 or who just turned 18 do not enter the church. When they see children, or schoolchildren of elementary, middle and high school age who want to enter, they force them to go home, trying to stay in the parish. It is strictly forbidden to organize catechism courses for minors; even the classrooms are closed: its is sheer desolation!
As for the various activities of the church, there are limits to the number of participants, even during solemnities or holidays; the parish priest is often summoned by government staff. During the daily or Sunday masses, there is always plainclothes government staff. In the evening the situation is better, and they are rarely seen.
As of last year, the construction and use of the new churches is also limited, although the churches have previously been authorized by government authorities, with all the necessary documents. For example, some churches are blocked mid-construction; others are closed as soon as the work is finished; others have water and electricity cut to prevent their being used.
Teresa, southeast China