Catholics Pray Outside Their Shut Down Churches

To push all believers under its control, the Chinese government is closing down all churches that refuse to join the Patriotic Catholic Church.

by An Xin

By January 16, over ten Catholic churches have been closed in the county-level city Fu’an, administered by Ningde city in the southeastern province of Fujian. All of them refuse to register with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and belong to the Diocese of Mindong, part of Fuzhou Archdiocese, where numerous churches have been shut down over the past year.

After the signing of the Vatican-China Deal of 2018, the situation of Catholic conscientious objectors who refuse to be registered continues to deteriorate across the country: clergy members and believers are frequently harassed and persecuted, churches closed down or demolished.

Five churches in the Diocese of Mindong were shut down for “substandard fire control measures.” The bishop’s residence in the Luojiang sub-district in Fu’an was also ordered to be vacated for the same reason after government officials ordered to cut off the water and power supply to Bishop Guo Xijin’s house and told him to move out.

The notice to shut down the bishop’s residence was issued on January 15, while the one on the closure of a Catholic church in Fu’an’s Saiqi town – on December 27, 2019.

Buxia Church in Fu’an’s Saiqi town also had its water and power supply cut off, but the congregation still refused to accept the priest who has been sent by the government. At 4 a.m. on January 19, congregation members gathered outside the church to pray and read the Bible, holding flashlights in the cold wind.

The notice to shut down the Buxia Church was issued on December 20, after which, the church’s gate was locked.

Video: Congregation members gathered outside the church to pray in the early morning of January 19.

On January 13, the priest from another Catholic church in Saiqi town held Mass in the home of a congregation member after their church has been suppressed. The priest didn’t want to get anyone into trouble, so he took care of everything necessary for the Mass himself and stayed with another congregation member to avoid problems with the government. A church member told Bitter Winter that the priest is ready to continue serving his congregation for as long as he can. “This is how priests who refuse to join the official church live. It’s all because of the government,” the churchgoer said.

In November 2019, after Huanghouli Catholic Church in Fu’an was shut down, local government officials ordered to remove Chinese characters for “Lourdes Garden” – named after the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes – on the church and change it to one of the CCP’s slogans “Don’t forget the original intention; keep the mission in mind.”

The notice on shutting down the Huanghouli Catholic Church in Fu’an.

“Like during the Cultural Revolution, the government now demolishes everything related to faith,” a local nun told Bitter Winter, adding that even though churches have been shut down, some elderly believers continue to gather outside them to pray and read the Bible in support to their priest who refuses to join the CPCA. “The priest must not sign the document. If he does, he’ll be a traitor,” and elderly Catholic commented.

Surveillance cameras were installed after the closure of the Huanghouli Catholic Church.

In late October, the government dismantled a residence for nuns in the Mindong Diocese, on the excuse that it was an “illegal construction.” The building’s roof was torn down, windows and floors broken, and power and water supply cut off.

“The government is cunning. Fearing that it will be criticized by the international community again, it disguised the persecution as the demolition of an illegal building so that nobody would associate it with its religious persecution campaigns,” a Catholic from Fu’an said.

According to a government insider from the northern province of Hebei, the authorities are intensifying crackdowns on places of worship that refuse to register with the CPCA. No priests from these churches are allowed to hold religious activities, and their rebellious churches will eventually be closed down.

Last June, the government of the county-level city of Anguo, administered by Baoding city in Hebei, forcibly sealed off Nanma Catholic Church. Congregation members were only allowed to gather outdoors. Around the same time, all religious objects were taken away from unregistered Catholic churches in Baoding’s Taihe village and Zhengding Diocese’s Dongzhao village.

Churchgoers continue gathering outside the church.
Statues, the altar, and other religious objects have been removed from a Catholic church in Dongzhao village.

“The CCP’s policy is to ‘sinicize’ the Catholic Church in China,” a priest from the Diocese of Mindong told Bitter Winter. “Sealing off churches is just one of the methods. The CCP aims to drive out all the priests who refuse to join the CPCA and allow only those who have joined to hold public Masses in churches. Those who have joined will only propagate that the CCP and the government are good and that everyone should follow the Communist Party’s instructions, which means that followers of Christ will become followers of the Party.”

Source: Bitter Winter