31.07.2020
Wang Yong & Human Rights Without Frontiers

Unregistered Catholic priests pressured into Patriotic Church

As the Vatican-China Deal of 2018 expires in September, the CCP intensifies persecution of Catholic conscientious objectors through harassment and indoctrination.

AsiaNews reported on July 8 that bishops and priests in the unregistered Catholic Diocese of Yujiang, Jiangxi Province, are “prohibited from any pastoral activity,” calling the situation “worse than before.”

According to the newly received information, the government forced some of the diocesan priests who refuse to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) to attend a 3-day patriotic training in April.

One of the priests who attended the event told Bitter Winter that the participants were pressured to follow the government’s orders. The priest remains determined not to join the CPCA since he views accepting the CCP’s demands as a “betrayal of God.”

Another priest in the diocese also expressed his firm resolution to withstand the CCP’s continuous persecution and pressure.

“I would rather spend my life in prison than join the Patriotic Church,” the priest said.

“Joining the CPCA means worshiping the Communist Party, not God because it is one of the Party’s pawns—it does what the Party orders. When told to sing the national anthem and raise the national flag, the CPCA does it like a puppet.”

Disregarding the Vatican Guidelines of 2019 that allow priests and bishops of what was known as China’s Underground Catholic Church to remain outside the CPCA for reasons of conscience, the CCP persists on forcing all Catholics in China to be controlled by it. As the expiration of the provisional Vatican-China Deal of 2018 approaches, the Chinese authorities intensify the persecution of those refusing to join the CPCA. 

On March 8, the government of Handan, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Hebei, put an 83-year-old Catholic priest under house arrest in a hotel to coerce him into joining the CPCA. Three days later, the priest was taken to a hospital with stroke symptoms, and the authorities sent him back to his hometown, banning him from celebrating Mass and other church services.

A Catholic from Handan told Bitter Winter that on March 13, when the priest was still in the hospital, the local government assigned specialized personnel to surveil the churches where he served and warned their congregations not to gather again. According to the believer, the government aims to shut down these churches permanently.

“By forcing us to join the CPCA, the CCP aims to put us under its rule,” said a priest form an unregistered church in Hebei’s Shijiazhuang city who was subjected to intense pressure to join the Patriotic Church in June.

“We won’t renounce our faith. We do nothing wrong by upholding truth and justice.”

In the Diocese of Mindong in Fujian Province, the government’s intimidation of Catholic conscientious objectors intensified after Father Huang from the Saiqi town parish was tortured to make him join the CPCA in April.

“In the beginning, all 23 priests in the diocese agreed on refusing to join the CPCA, but the government arrested some priests, including Father Huang, and made them join,” a priest from the diocese said. He added that some priests had to go into hiding to evade torture and persecution.

“During the Cultural Revolution, it was not easy to find someone on the run, but as high-tech surveillance equipment permeates every corner now, one has no place to hide,” the priest explained.

He also revealed that seven elderly ill priests, who refused to join the CPCA, were demanded to “retire,” banned from holding religious ceremonies. Another priest explained that with this move, the government wanted to silence these respected priests who may influence their congregations.

According to some Catholics in the Diocese of Mindong, local officials frequently harass priests to join the CPCA because their superiors assign them quotas: Hitting or missing them means either being awarded or punished.

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