MINDONG, China (ChurchMilitant.com) - Faithful clergy are being picked off one by one as the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) reign of terror continues, ratcheting up since the China-Vatican agreement of 2018.
Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin, former head of the diocese of Mindong, was literally kicked to the curb in recent months, sleeping outside the clergy house in Luojiang for remaining faithful to the Faith.
Out of fear of bad publicity, CCP authorities are now allowing Bp. Guo to continue to live in the house — without water, electricity or gas.
In spite of the ongoing persecution, the prelate can be seen blessing surveillance cameras each time he enters and exits his building.
On April 3, Bp. Guo bore witness to his fellow priest, Fr. Huang Jintong, of Saiqi, having been taken into police custody by security forces to an undisclosed location.
A few hours after, police ordered Guo to prepare clothes for Fr. Huang, telling him the priest wouldn't be coming home "for a month," a euphemism for however long it will take him to renounce his loyalty to the underground Church and adopt a new allegiance to the CCP.
As is the case with many other faithful clerics, both Bp. Guo and Fr. Huang are being targeted for not signing on as members of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) which would effectively cede their allegiance to the communist state.
Many priests equate signing the document with denying their bond with the papacy and the universal Church and becoming state officials who would be required to display the Chinese flag on sacred buildings and to collaborate with and support the CCP and its supreme leader Xi Jinping.
The Vatican asked Chinese authorities last summer not to apply pressure to those who did not sign on to the CCPA, but state officials have displayed zero-tolerance for any kind of independent Church or beliefs and want all the churches to be led by and devoted to the Party.
Both the Vatican and the CCP designated the diocese of Mindong to be a kind of "test drive" for the implementation of the China-Vatican agreement. At the request of Pope Francis himself, Msgr. Guo, who was then Mindong's bishop, was demoted to auxiliary bishop, and the position was given to Msgr. Zhan Silu, an official chosen by the state.
A recent report issued by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a U.K.-based human rights group, speaks to the suffering of priests throughout China not only in Mindong. The report enumerates the arrests, detention, re-education, torture, house arrests and imprisonment of individual clergy as well as those whose current status remains unknown. Their names read like a painful litany, among them: Bp. Peter Shao Zhumin, Bp. Cui Tai, Fr. Su Guipeng, Fr. Zhao He, Fr. Zhang Guilin, Fr. Wang Zhong.
Steven Mosher, an American social scientist and China expert, speaking at the 2019 Rome Life Forum, warned that persecution of Christians, particularly Catholics, in China is currently unfolding in a way the "world has never seen the likes of."
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, "demands total submission from the Chinese people, including Chinese Catholics, who seem to be first on the chopping block," Mosher said. "He is as cruel and merciless an individual as we have seen ruling China since Mao Zedong back in the 1950s and 60s."
"By now it should be clear to everyone, even presumably Vatican diplomats, that things are going from bad to worse in China," Mosher declared.
While the Vatican is remaining silent not only on the actual contents of the agreement but also on the escalating persecution of Catholics throughout China, critics are wondering if the pope has denied his bond with the faithful priests who have refused to relinquish their status as alter Christus and become mere puppets and administrators of the CCP.