ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Religious persecution in China continues to escalate as the Chinese government holds socialist training programs for Catholic clergy and summer camps are forced to close.
AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, published a first-hand report Wednesday on a training program for Chinese priests and religious officials held by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The training program took place from July 21 to July 27 in Beijing for 30 Catholic priests registered with the Catholic Patriotic Association and 20 religious affairs officials from Ningde (also known as Mingdong).
The one-week training program was centered around the theme "Guiding the Catholic Church to follow a path conforming to socialist society."
Bishop Zhan Silu ― the bishop of the diocese of Funing appointed by the Chinese government whose excommunication latae sententiae Pope Francis lifted in September 2018 ― told the participants that he hoped they would bring the fruit of this program home to their parishes:
In accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, we will fulfill our duties, build our trust, study and put into practice the spirit transmitted by national and provincial conferences on religious work, we will deepen the content of Catholic doctrine in order to foster social harmony, progress and a positive culture, to carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, we will continue to follow a path that conforms to socialist society.
We must contribute to the creation of a new reality in the diocese of Mingdong and in the Catholic Church of Fujian, and in the name of the diocese of Mingdong, we must also make our contribution to the development of the Holy Church in China.
In an exclusive interview with Church Militant in July, Cdl. Joseph Zen talked about escalating religious persecution in China, especially for Catholics after the secretive Vatican-China agreement was reached in September 2018:
[It] is obvious for anybody who follows the events on the news. It is really a terrible thing; the most worrisome element is that the agreement was a secret one, so we do not know what is in the agreement.
So, when the government comes to say, "Do this" and, "Do that" to our people here, they ask, "Why?" They ask, "Did the Pope already agree?" Then the people say, "We don't know; we don't know what the Pope promised to you ― what he agreed on."
And then [the Holy See] says, "Now come up and sign the document to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association." Actually, that was not in the agreement because even Cdl. Filoni said that was not in the agreement, but still under discussion. So, many things have happened because of that secret agreement.
The situation is pretty much worse. Before there was an agreement, there was a kind of compromise on many points; for example, the underground Church could have their church buildings and the underground priests, even in the cities, could say Masses for the faithful, even though the law is against that. But the authorities, for a long time, never enforced those laws. Now, they enforce those laws. So, it is a much harsher persecution after the agreement; it is terrible.
Catholic dioceses in the north are reporting that the CCP is prohibiting summer camps intended to instruct children in the Faith.
One Catholic from northern China going by "John" said the camps can be held privately, but they will be shut down if they go public.
"It must take place in secret," he said.
Many summer camps have been canceled.
Church Militant spoke about this escalating religious persecution with a Chinese Christian who fled the country and goes by the pseudonym "Chrissy."
Chrissy explained that the CCP is an atheistic party that views God as the enemy. Ever since the regime came to power, she said the CCP has denied, condemned and blasphemed God.
In effect, according to Chrissy, the CCP has made itself divine and labeled the Christian faith an evil cult:
They [The CCP] have labeled Christianity as an evil cult and the Bible a cultist book; they confiscate it and burn it! They have declared religious groups as cult organizations and subjected them to oppression and persecution. The CCP is always fanatically suppressing, capturing and persecuting them.
It's getting worse and worse now. They claim there is freedom of belief in China, but arrest Christians and even torture many to death. It really is ruthless, unwarranted killing! They just want all the Chinese to worship them as 'god' and turn China into a godless land; what the CCP has done fulfills the Great Red Dragon in Revelation!
In the interview with Cdl. Zen, he asked believers to "[k]eep praying; keep praying."