ZHENGZHOU, China (ChurchMilitant.com) - A ban on children attending Mass is hitting a second Chinese province.
In China's Henan Province, a recent government notice dated April 8 is announcing a ban on catechizing children under 18 and forbidding parents from bringing them to church. It is the second province to enforce such rules, following Xinjiang Province where the restrictions were implemented February 1.
According to a translation by AsiaNews, the notice states, "Throughout the province, it is forbidden to organize activities of any form such as school, class, summer camp or winter camp, etc. for minors for religious education or formation."
It also says, "The faithful are invited to go to church [and] to leave their children in custody of others so as not to take the children with them to church."
There were two governmental organizations signing off on this notice: the Henan Catholic Patriotic Association (HCPA) and the Henan Commission for Church Affairs (HCCA).
The president of the HCPA is a local Catholic priest, Fr. Wang Yuezheng. Another priest, Fr. Li Jianlin, serves as secretary of the HCCA.
The AsiaNews report claims it is unclear whether these priests are willfully betraying the Church "or if they are only impotent victims of the excessive power of the party."
AsiaNews also reported, "In an attempt to continue the education of young people, several priests are trying to put into practice ways to circumvent the ban: even the priests of the official church are forced to act and propose unofficial gatherings!"
This news comes as the Vatican is in talks with Chinese officials about the Church in China. Catholics in the Communist country are split between an "official," government-approved church — with illicit, government-appointed bishops — and an underground church that goes without approval from the Communist Party.
The Vatican is considering working with the Communist regime by giving its stamp of approval on illicit, government-appointed bishops. These government-approved bishops would be placed over dioceses in the underground church, taking seats formerly held by licit, Vatican-appointed bishops who engaged in ministry behind the Communist party's back.
Some Chinese Catholics are scandalized that the Vatican would want to dialogue with their persecutors. One group of Chinese Catholics submitted a petition to the Vatican expressing their concerns.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has criticized the Vatican's approach repeatedly in the past few months. At one point in February, Cdl. Zen blasted Cdl. Pietro Parolin for defending the Vatican-China dialogue. Cardinal Parolin had claimed that the talk was trying to end the suffering of Catholics involved in the underground church. Cardinal Zen shot back, "Crocodile tears! What suffering is he talking about? He knows very well that they are not afraid of poverty, nor the limitation or deprivation of liberty, nor even the loss of life."
Kristina Arriaga from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently said about the Chinese government, "A lot of things have happened in the last few months that are very troubling for the future of Christianity in China."
This was her answer to a question from Breitbart during a discussion sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.
Arriaga continued, "The situation for Christians there is dire. ... One thing we know for sure is that the persecution [against] Christians has doubled in intensity."