Priest convicted of ‘fraud’ for refusing to register with the Patriotic Association
Ordained in 2020, Fr Yang Xiaoming, a young priest in the diocese of Wenzhou (Zhejiang) was given an administrative sentence for standing his ground on a matter of conscience. As a result, he is not allowed to perform his ministry. In China, the authorities claim the right to decide who is a priest in open violation of religious freedom.
Wenzhou (AsiaNews) – Fr Yang Xiaoming was ordained a priest by a bishop, but was found guilty of fraud for refusing to join official bodies like the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), sources in China told AsiaNews.
The clergyman was dragged before a court for standing up on a matter of conscience, convicted, and given an administrative penalty.
Fr Yang Xiaoming (Christian name Joseph) was born on 22 November 1989 in Longwan, a district of the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.
He was ordained a priest on 18 December 2020 by underground Bishop Peter Shao Zhuming of Wenzhou, a prelate who was arrested several times for refusing to join the CCPA.
On 11 May 2021, a few months after ordination, the Longwan District Religious Affairs Office started proceedings against Fr Xiaoming for failing to register with the Religious Affairs Department and other party-controlled bodies.
As a result, he was charged, tried and found guilty of "conducting religious activities by deception or obtaining money by deception, under the guise of a religious cleric."
He was given an administrative sentence that included an “order to cease his (priestly) activities, the confiscation of unlawful proceeds for 28,473.33 renminbi (US$ 3,880), and a fine of 1,526.67 renminbi (US$ 210).”
Fr Yang appealed the penalty imposed by the Religious Affairs Department, arguing that the charge that he was a false priest violated Canon Law since he had been ordained by Bishop Shao Zhuming.
Fr Yang has a certificate of ordination issued by the bishop of Wenzhou and both the Longwan District Religious Affairs Bureau and the Longwan District government have recognised the authenticity of the document in court, thus acknowledging that he was ordained according to the rules of the Catholic Church.
"The acquisition of qualifications for religious personnel should be an internal affair of each religious community, which enjoys full freedom in this regard," he said. “Under the modern international principle of separation of church and state, the government should not intervene in the internal affairs of religions.”
“What is puzzling is the fact that Fr Yang was convicted by a court for not being a priest accredited by the Patriotic Association, but only by the Catholic diocese of Wenzhou,” sources in China told AsiaNews
"This is actual political persecution and a blatant violation of religious freedom and international conventions,’ they added. “We call on those concerned for human rights and religious freedom to pray for the Church in China in her suffering, and ask the Lord to care and help us.”
Photo: Interior view of Wenzhou cathedral. Wikipedia/猫猫的日记本