Please or Register to create posts and topics.

Beijing crushes Catholic foothold in Hong Kong

19.07.2022 17:29:00China, Vatican, agreement, Christianity, Catholicism, persecution, Hong Kong, Pope Francis, Xi Jinping, Cardinal Chen, Pietro Parolin, protestsChinese President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the city's reunification with the rest of China. Reuters photo

Archbishop Javier Herrera Corona has warned Catholics in China and Hong Kong that reprisals from the PRC authorities await them in the near future. The announcement comes as several Celestial Catholic clerics are in jail or under house arrest and the Vatican is preparing to extend the Interim Agreement with China.“Change is coming and you better be prepared. Hong Kong is no longer the great Catholic foothold it used to be,” Herrera Corona warned the Hong Kong missionaries with these words. According to the official directory of the diocese, there are about 50 foreign Catholic societies and religious orders in Hong Kong, employing more than 600 priests, monks and nuns.

According to the assurances of the prelate, who until February of this year. head of the Holy See Study Mission in Hong Kong, the Chinese government plans to tighten control over religious organizations in this administrative area. This is not only due to the consequences of the Hong Kong National Security Law, which came into force two years ago, according to which actions to separate the peninsula are not only prohibited, but also severely punished. The law was introduced following anti-government protests in 2019 that drew millions of Hong Kong citizens, including Catholics. In the immediate aftermath of the strikes, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) stepped up efforts to curb free speech in Hong Kong, bypassing its legislature. During this time, “unreliable” clergy were identified and arrested, including Catholics.

Against this background, Pope Francis announced that in October the Interim Agreement with the PRC would again be extended. Recall that the document was signed in September 2018 and extended two years later, in the fall of 2020. The text of the deal is still closed to the general public, but it is known that within its framework, the Holy See recognized Catholic bishops appointed bypassing the pontiff by the Communist Party of China.

Until recently, China had a system of "double hierarchy". In 1957, the Chinese Patriotic Association of Catholics (CPA) was founded by the State Administration for Religious Affairs of the country, which became the only officially recognized Catholic structure in the country. At the same time, there was also an "underground church", which was directly subordinate to the Vatican, but was not recognized by Beijing. She also appointed her own bishops. Along with the signing of the agreement, Pope Francis recognized seven current bishops, as well as one deceased, previously ordained by "patriots" bishops, and in two years he ordained at least six more. At the same time, today approximately 40% of Catholic parishes in mainland China do not have bishops. Every fifth of the bishops in the country is over 80 years old. In total, in China, according to official statistics, about 6, 5 million Catholics, more than 7 thousand clergy and about 6 thousand churches recognized by the Vatican. According to unofficial data, the number of Catholics in the country exceeds 12 million.

According to the pontiff, over the four years of its existence, the concordat has already brought "positive results" both for the clergy and for the believers of the Celestial Empire. Chinese Catholics have indeed felt the changes, but it is difficult to call them “positive”. For example, since the end of 2018, the country has banned the purchase of the Bible via the Internet. Distributors of audio versions of the Christian Scriptures will face persecution and harsh punishments.

In the autumn of 2019, a meeting was held in Beijing, where representatives of all major faiths operating in the country were invited. Member of the CPC Politburo Wang Yang urged the clergy to "understand" and make a new translation of their dogmatic books in such a way that it meets the decisions of the Fourth Plenum of the CPC Central Committee, and also fits the format of the "new era", which is called the "era of President Xi Jinping" in the country ".

True, since then this issue has not been raised and, accordingly, the Chinese adaptation of the Christian Bible has not yet seen the light of day. In November 2021, Apple removed the Bible App from the Chinese App Store. At the same time, an instruction was sent down “from above” that representatives of Christian denominations should now convey to believers in sermons devoted to social doctrine that agriculture and trade not only in the country, but also in the world were introduced by the Shang dynasty, whose emperors ruled in second millennium BC. At a special seminar held for the clergy, several versions of typical edifications on the topics of urban and rural businesses were proposed. There was also a competition of spiritual instructions, the winners of which received valuable state prizes and awards. Then it was announced

Those who disagree with the CCP's new policies are sent to jail without hesitation by the government. For officials, it does not matter what rank and status the oppositionist has. May 11 this year Cardinal Emeritus Joseph Chen was arrested. He is accused by the Chinese authorities of "colluding with foreign forces" in connection with his role as the administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which helps the opposition pay legal and medical expenses. A day later, the 90-year-old bishop, who led the Hong Kong diocese from 2002 to 2009, was released on bail. On May 24, the first court session took place. According to the website of the Hong Kong diocese, the prelate was charged with the fact that he allegedly did not apply for registration of the community. Neither the cardinal nor the diocese agreed with the claims. According to Reuters, Chen's next trial will take place in September.

In addition to him, several Catholic hierarchs have recently been repressed. One of them is Bishop Joseph Chang Weizhu. He was arrested in May 2021 during a special raid by CCP activists. The bishop was charged with the fact that he refused to become a member of the party. Together with him, a dozen more priests were detained, who allegedly evaded compulsory military service. The latter were soon released - with a ban on service. In addition, the authorities of the city of Xinxiang, the Chinese province of Henyan, where the hierarch served, closed all schools and kindergartens belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy See asked the Chinese government a year ago to release the bishop, but was told that "the prelate has committed serious crimes and must remain in custody." Now the whereabouts of the hierarch is unknown.

Another victim of the arbitrariness of the Chinese authorities, according to the human rights portal Bitter Winter, was Bishop Augustine Cui Tai from the Xuanhua diocese in Hebei province. The persecution began in 2007, and since then he has been in prison almost constantly. Occasionally, he is allowed to go home for the holidays, but then returned to the cell. Since 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, he has not left the prison walls. Bishop Cui Tai is one of the so-called "conscientious objectors" who refrain from joining any patriotic associations, although this is allowed and even encouraged by the Holy See. Cui Tai also opposes military service "for reasons of conscience" and believes that conscientious objection to the military among Catholics should be encouraged.

It is noteworthy that all three of the above hierarchs at one time opposed the conclusion of the Interim Agreement between the Vatican and the PRC. They argued that such a concordat would only increase the persecution of believers in China. Cardinal Chen even tried to personally meet with the pontiff before the first signing of the agreement, but Pope Bergoglio refused an audience with the Chinese prince of the church. Later, Chen accused the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, of not only manipulating the pontiff, but also being guided by “vanity” and the desire for “diplomatic success”, while insisting on an agreement with China, and not at all thinking about the bishops and believers of the PRC. Chen also accused Vatican officials of falsifying a Chinese translation of a text compiled by Pope Benedict XVI for the church in China.