QUANZHOU, China (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bishop in China is now homeless after refusing to kowtow to the Communist government.
Police evicted Aux. Bp. Vincenzo Guo Xijin and the priests who work and live with him in the curia and clergy house in the Luojiang District of Quanzhou in Fujian Province. They claimed the building, constructed just 10 years ago, was not up to code with fire safety regulations.
According to AsiaNews, Bp. Guo is sleeping on the steps of the curia, "downgraded to the status of homeless and migrant."
Authorities in Fujian province reportedly cut off the water and electricity to speed up the eviction.
Bishop Guo has spent his life thus far as part of the underground Church in China, as opposed to the goverment-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church. His eviction is the latest development in the fallout from the China-Vatican accord — a secretive agreement signed two years ago with the stated intention of reconciling the underground Church with the government Church.
As a result of the agreement between Beijing and the Vatican, Bp. Guo agreed to step down, going from head of the Xiapu-Funing diocese to auxiliary bishop. He handed over the seat to a government-approved bishop who was formerly excommunicated, Bp. Vincenzo Zhan Silu.
Another part of the China-Vatican accord was lifting excommunications against bishops like Zhan, who were essentially consecrated bishop behind the pope's back.
Though agreeing to a demotion to auxiliary bishop, Bp. Guo did not register with the so-called Patriotic Church. A number of his priests likewise refused to put themselves under the direct control of the Communist authorities.
Bishop Guo said in a letter last June, "The government has already decided to persecute priests who refuse to sign the request [for membership in the Patriotic Association]. If I am unable to protect them, it is not worth my time to be recognized as an auxiliary bishop. I am willing to face persecution together with other priests."
The authorities have used evictions like this to target underground Catholics on several occasions in recent memory. AsiaNews reports that five parishes have been closed for bogus fire safety violations — at least three of them in Fujian province.
Video shared by AsiaNews shows the faithful keeping vigil at one of those churches, where the water and electricity have been cut off.
On Monday, authorities also used this eviction tactic to close a home for the elderly attached to a Catholic parish in the town of Saiqi. The home was run by religious sisters and cared for about 30 elderly persons.
Some local Catholics have put blame on Bp. Zhan, claiming he "seems more like a politician than a pastor."
Ever since the China-Vatican agreement, many say the persecution has only ramped up for China's Catholics.
Footage from earlier this month shows government workers sacking a Catholic church in Jiangxi Province.
A U.S. congressional report released last week states, "After the PRC [People's Republic of China] Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holy See, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increasing persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses and continuing to detain underground clergy."
In October 2018, two Marian shrines in China were destroyed by the authorities, on charges of having too many religious symbols.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has been sounding the alarm about the Vatican-China accord. He warned Vatican officials in February 2018, "You're putting wolves before your flock, and they are going to make a massacre."