After the pandemic, churches reopen in China. But with many difficulties
by Wang Zhicheng

They had been closed for about five months due to the pandemic. Churches are the last things to be reopened, after industries, restaurants, cinemas, street markets. Permits from all levels of authority and guarantees on preventive health measures are required. Questions on religious freedom, on the silence of the bishops and the Vatican.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government has issued a notice that it will be possible to reopen churches for worship after almost five months of closure due to the pandemic. But the bureaucratic process and the conditions for reopening make the return to places of worship for faithful very difficult.

When China isolated Wuhan on January 23 (epicenter of the pandemic from Covid-19) and then gradually extended the measure all the provinces of the country, the churches were immediately closed. Priests and faithful had to resort to online masses, rites, indications to sanctify the festive precept without mass, family prayer, etc.

Since the beginning of March, the country has begun to return to life again and reopened industries, restaurants, and even cinemas and street vendors. Churches were left closed until June. But even now, the conditions for reopening them to the faithful are unnerving.

Paul, a priest from central China, complains: “To open the church we have to get a permit from the authorities at every level: from village, city, province and this requires time and travel. In addition, we must prepare the church both to welcome the faithful and to guarantee sanitary conditions”. The sacred buildings can in fact be reopened only on condition that the parishes guarantee pandemic prevention measures such as temperature control, masks, disinfectants, seating, entrance and exits etc.

In some provinces, such as in Sichuan, special permission is required to resume catechism courses. In other provinces, the Patriotic Association demands that the reopening take place with sermons on love of country and with patriotic songs, according to the rules established by the New regulations on religious activities, which require "sinicization" and "patriotism" towards the Chinese Communist Party for every religious gesture.

"Of course - continues Fr. Paul - celebrating mass with the people is very important and more significant than attending online, but I ask myself: do we really have freedom of religion, as stated in our Constitution? Religion does not seem to belong to us; it belongs to the Party. But must our bishops, who enjoy the favors and benefits that the Party grants them, always remain silent? And does the Vatican, which signed the Provisional Agreement two years ago realize this? ".