BEIJING (ChurchMilitant.com) - The communist-approved Catholic Church in China is facing persecution despite official status.
Officially registered churches are harassed regardless of belonging to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), a control arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This comes from a recent report by Bitter Winter, a magazine on human rights and religious liberty in China.
A CPCA deacon in Hebei province near Beijing explained his church joined the CPCA hoping the communists would allow them to worship in peace.
"But the situation has changed, and registered churches are sometimes harassed more than the unregistered ones," he said. "They also have their crosses removed."
In July, the CCP took down the cross from the deacon's church and installed a surveillance camera at the entrance.
"The government is even more confident in controlling registered churches. Had we known this beforehand, we would not have joined the CPCA," he lamented.
Similar treatment has been reported from other locations throughout the country.
Officials covered the sign reading "Catholic Church" with boards and removed crosses, benches and other religious symbols from a church in the Wangdangjia village. Soon thereafter, a nearby church was closed.
The government in a prefecture-level city in Shandong province closed two CPCA churches in June, alleging "not many congregation members attend gatherings."
Local officials in the town of Jinling removed a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and cross on the village church because "they were taller than the village committee building.
In June, officials closed a CPCA church in Zhangmentun village. The closure occurred after they removed the 14 stations of the cross, the altar and a dove on the roof of the church.
In November 2019, stating a prohibition on religious structures, officials in Tancheng county destroyed a church's bell tower along with a statue of Our Lord.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, told Church Militant in February that the Holy See's dealings with the CCP constitute a "total sellout" of the underground Church, the Catholic Church loyal to the Holy See and not registered with the CPCA.
Zen was particularly astounded by what he called the "so-called pastoral guidance" in which the Vatican encouraged members of the underground Church to join the CPCA.
The cardinal was referring to "Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China," which was published on the Vatican website in June 2019.
Zen noted the document mentions no Vatican departments and has no signatories. It is unclear who wrote the document, who authorized the document and whether it has any weight.
The conclusion of the document reads:
Finally, the Holy See trusts that everyone can accept these pastoral indications as a means of helping those faced with choices that are far from simple, to make such choices in a spirit of faith and unity. All those involved — the Holy See, bishops, priests, religious men and women and the lay faithful — are called to discern the will of God with patience and humility on this part of the journey of the Church in China, marked, as it is, by much hope but also by enduring difficulties.
The publication of this document was the final step in the "total sellout" of the underground Church, according to Zen.
"The first step was that secret agreement [Vatican-China agreement reached in September 2018] for the selection of bishops, and then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops — asking the legitimate underground bishops to step down," the cardinal Zen regarding the first two steps.
The secretive Vatican-China accord, which is poised for renewal soon, emboldened the CCP. While this opened the doors for intensified persecution of the underground Church, Bitter Winter's report indicates that joining the CPCA is no escape from the CCP's pursuit of total domination.