12/24/2020, 08.09
CHINA
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Beijing control on Church to erase Christmas joy

by Paolo Chen

In the lead up to the celebrations state media have run boycott campaigns, the authorities have tightened controls and closures of places of worship. This year there is also Covid: churches must follow strict prevention measures, while shopping centers, railway stations, schools and airports are exempt. A method to inculcate towards Christians and slow down the growth of their numbers.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - In the lead up to the celebrations state media have run boycott campaigns, the authorities have tightened controls and closures of places of worship. This year there is also Covid: churches must follow strict prevention measures, while shopping centers, railway stations, schools and airports are exempt.... Part of an effort to foster disinterest in Christians and hatred towards Christians, according to Fr. Paul Chen, an official priest of central China. The goal of hos campaign is to counter the growing interest and number of conversions taking place in Chinese society.

Christmas is a celebration of peace. Jesus Christ is born on earth and in the heart of every human being. But this year Christmas is destined to be another of those solemn feast dayss that do not allow us to have peace in our hearts. Because there are many things inside and outside the Church that interfere and even risk destroying the peace of heart that welcomes Jesus.

From an external point of view, every year when Christmas comes, the media publish strange news and implement a real boycott of the season. Various authorities, units, organizational departments, etc. began to hold a meeting and issue notices forbidding their members from participating in any religious activities. Some schools have even started to investigate the religious affiliation of registered members. Through these organizational acts, an atmosphere of opposition to Christianity and a boycott of Christmas is created in society, causing great psychological pressure on Christians. Sensitizing more non-Christians to the Christmas holiday, avoiding it, even starting to hate Christians, is perhaps their desired effect?

From within the Church, the documents released by the authorities that govern religions have added a number of restrictions that are much harsher than those of previous years. For example, now it is necessary to declare to the authorities’ specific details on the number of participants, and the purpose of the liturgical event. City and community authorities are required to implement and verify all regulations. This puts pressure on the local leaders who then go out of their way to tighten the control to carry out what their superiors command, out of fear of taking on some responsibility.

Some local authorities then issued an order prohibiting any activity in registered religious places that fall under their jurisdiction.

There are many small parishes in remote places, where priests have been pressured to cancel all activities. They accepted this because they are unable to withstand the threats from the police, the health authorities, the political authorities of the municipality. It must be said that, at the same time, these difficulties have given some priests the opportunity to voluntarily abandon the various liturgical activities to please the authorities.

This year there is a another, even more compelling, reason: Covid-19. In order to prevent and control the Covid-19, we must do everything to isolate it, this is a matter of course and duty, there is no doubt about it. Because the seriousness of the Covid-19 is deeply felt by us all. But the problem is that so many public places, such as shopping malls, airports, stations, schools and other crowded places, don't seem to be any different from what they were before, and no special notices or protection are found for those places. The only places of religion, the only Christmas event, they interfere and prohibit greatly on the grounds of Covid-19 prevention and control. And the notice clearly says that religious protection against Covid-19 should be a regular feature. Does this suggest that any future religious activities should be interfered with wantonly on the grounds of Covid-19 protection? For example, for the recent consecration of a bishop in the Diocese of Linfen in Shanxi, the number of people who could attend the liturgy was only more than two hundred, also on the grounds that it was to prevent and control the Covid-19, but in reality, the daily flow of people in local public places, such as large shopping malls and vegetable markets, cannot be only two or three hundred. This was the concern of so many parishioners and priests.

Many Catholics say that the situation of the Church and the control of religious activities have worsened since the Sino-Vatican Agreement was signed. It does not matter how remote their parishes may be, they have been warned: foreigners are prohibited from participating in events [with the Chinese] and the infiltration of foreign religious is prohibited. For many Catholics and their priests, the coming of Christ risks being a spiritual disaster: the joy and peace that greeted the birth of Jesus is very often surrounded by fear and suffering due to this harsh reality.

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