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YINING, China (ChurchMilitant.com) - As the Vatican is negotiating with China's Communist government, the same government has removed crosses and statues from Catholic parishes.
Reports say that two Catholic churches in China have recently had their crosses, statues and domes removed at the command of governmental authorities.
In Henan Province, authorities removed numerous crosses from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on March 9. They removed a total of 10 crosses from three structures: the cathedral itself, a gate tower and a smaller old church.
After an appeal by Catholics, the government built a few replacement crosses that were fewer in number and smaller in size. On March 10, they built six crosses on the cathedral, gate tower and old church. One of these new crosses, topping the center of the cathedral, was half the size of the original.
They lopped off crosses from the edifice, removed a pair of decorative domes on the roof, removed statues from the outer edifice and painted white to cover various paintings decorating the front facade. Inside the church, the government removed the Stations of the Cross, cross-shaped pew decorations and other visual reminders of Our Lord's Crucifixion.
The cross, according to China's Communists, is a symbol of a foreign religion. They argue that prominent displays of the cross are a threat to Chinese culture. At the very least, the cross contradicts the country's official atheism.
During December 2017, one or two other Catholic churches in China underwent similar iconoclasm. Iconoclasm, literally "icon-smashing," is the removal and destruction of sacred art, especially that found in churches.
While Catholic parishes in the West have undergone voluntary iconoclasm at the hands of progressives wanting to "modernize" the Church, Catholics in China are having iconoclasm forcefully imposed on them by the Communist government.
While this persecution is being perpetrated against the government-approved churches, the Vatican is allegedly working with Chinese officials to reach a compromise about the underground church.
In China, some Catholic dioceses are approved by the government. Affiliated with China's Catholic Patriot Association, the bishops of these dioceses are appointed illicitly by the government without the consent of the Holy See.
In contrast, some of the faithful in China are part of the underground church. They attend parishes that do not have government approval. The bishops of the underground church were appointed without the Communist government's approval.
Reports say there are ongoing talks between the Vatican and China about trying to bring the underground church into union with the government-approved church. Specifically, the Vatican is looking to replace the aging bishops of the underground church. Officials are considering a deal which would place illicit, government-appointed bishops in charge of formerly underground dioceses.
Cardinal Joseph Zen from the underground church has blasted the negotiation, calling it a "bad deal," "suicide" and "a shameless surrender."
The Vatican's Cdl. Pietro Parolin defended the Vatican's talks with China in an interview published January 31. He argued the negotiations could help to relieve the sufferings of underground Catholics in China.
Cardinal Zen blasted 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."
The Communists' virtual sacking of Catholic churches reminds some Chinese Catholics of the "Cultural Revolution" that the Communists organized decades ago.
From 1966–1976, the Red Guard and Chairman Mao Zedong enacted a series of radical policies seeking to purge the nation of any threats to its Communist future. In the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao urged China's youth to reject lukewarm Communism, Western influences and other cultural forces that could help discredit the totalitarian regime.
Harsh persecution of Christians was part of the Red Guard's Cultural Revolution. Churches, temples, prayer books and religious art were often destroyed as a way of promoting communistic atheism.