Jiangxi, the Yujiang Underground Church suffocated by persecution
Bishop and priests banned from pastoral activities. They refuse to join the "independent Church". Their situation worsened after the launch of the new regulations on religious activities and after the provisional agreement between China and the Vatican. The considerations of one believer.
Yujiang (AsiaNews) - The unofficial (underground) Church of Yujiang (Jiangxi) is being suffocated by persecution and now bishops and priests are prohibited from any pastoral activity. This is the very grim picture that Pietro Jiang, a local believer, paints for AsiaNews. According to Jiang, the causes that contribute to this situation are two. The first is the implementation of the new regulations on religious activities, which require the registration of staff and assembly places. These Regulations, launched in February 2018, aim to eradicate underground communities and obtain total control of the life of the Church. The second cause, according to Jiang, is the provisional agreement between China and the Vatican, signed in September 2018, which has made the government even more bold in demanding registration, given that - as he says - "the Vatican is on our side".
The question of registration revolves around the order to join an "independent Church", subject to the Chinese Communist Party, which for China means "independent of the Holy See", even if the Vatican has downplayed this interpretation. The faithful of Yujiang are concerned by the experience of the "reconciliation" of Mindong, where the ordinary, underground bishop, Msgr. Guo Xijin, accepted demotion to auxiliary bishop to leave the post of ordinary to an ex-excommunicated bishop, Msgr. Zhan Silu. However, the government still does not accept Msgr. Guo as bishop.
The diocese of Yujiang, headed up to 2014 by Msgr. Tommaso Zeng Jingmu, a martyr of the faith, has nearly 20 thousand faithful. But it is not recognized by the government, which has restructured the traditional dioceses, unifying five dioceses in the one diocese of Jiangxi.
The hardships in the Yujiang underground church in Jiangxi province have intensified. Recently all the underground clergy are forbidden to openly preach and do related church activities. This change is worse than before.
For the past couple of years, many of the underground churches’ meeting places have closed down. The faithful are harassed if they provide a place for any religious activity. Some of the underground priests have already been driven away by the government and replaced by official government approved priests. The parishioners from the underground church are against this new arrangement by the Chinese government, and they refuse to participate in any religious activity held by the government approved priests. For example, they refuse to attend mass with the new government official priests. This causes a problem for the official church.
Over the past couple of years, especially after the the Vatican and China’s Provisional Agreement two years ago, the Chinese government have attempted to make Bishop Peng Weizhao and all his priests to register and join the official church of China, with the threat that if they did not so, they would not be allowed to preach and evangelize openly. The Chinese government has continuously threatened and pressured Bishop Peng Weizhao and his priests to oblige. However, Bishop Peng Weizhao refuses, expressing he and his priests do not to submit to the Chinese government. While a few of the priests have secretly contacted the government in order to to become registered, the overwhelming majority of priests follow Bishop Pen Weizhao and refuse to submit.
Bishop Peng Weizhao and his priests worry about what will happen to the underground church if they submit to the Chinese government. The official church already has their own bishops, and they do not know who will lead if the two churches merge. How the church will be managed in term of his own his diocese and property. Furthermore, Bishop Peng Weizhao and his priests have little confidence in the Chinese government, especially after observing what happened to the Mindong diocese. When the underground church from the Ming Dong diocese united with the official church of China, many of the underground priests were persecuted.