Beijing clamps down on Christian proclamation
Today is the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.
Police and security personnel stand guard outside a Catholic church in Beijing before Mass. Reuters/Florence Lo.
Proclaiming the Christian faith in China is becoming more and more difficult, even on the internet, according to Bishop Bertram Meier, responsible for World Church affairs in the German bishops’ conference.
“Already in 2020, under the pretext of fighting the Covid pandemic, proclaiming the faith was made noticeably more difficult, but in the past year, the dynamic of oppression of religion in China has again increased perceptibly,” he said.
The ever-tighter internet censorship were a further impediment to religious freedom.
On 1 March, new “Regulations for the Administration of Religious Information Services on the Internet” had been added to the already restrictive regulations concerning religious activities. “These new regulations will make religious information and communication via the internet and social media more or less impossible in the foreseeable future,” Meier said. Already the number of very important blogs and internet forums on Christian issues had decreased dramatically, while older blogs had been deleted.
Bringing children and young people into contact with religion had been banned for some time now in China but the authorities were clamping down harder in all parts of China now and this was making religious education well-nigh impossible, Meier explained.
“The harassment of bishops, priests and nuns who refuse to join the Patriotic Association, that official representation of Catholicism in China imposed by the state, is getting more and more coercive,” he said. The Chinese Communist Party wanted to control bishops so that it could control and influence the lay faithful. Some bishops like Bishop Cui Tai of Xuanhua were permanently either under house arrest or in prison. Bishop Cui Tai refused to sign a document in which he was required to promise to totally commit himself to the autonomy of a Catholic Chinese Church and thus for the de facto secession from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, Meier recounted.
Bishop Meier, recalling that 24 May, today, is the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China and the day that the traditional pilgrimage to China’s largest Marian shrine at Sheshan near Shanghai took place, called for special prayers for the Church in China on that day.
Pope Francis tweeted: “Mary, Help of Christians, we entrust the journey of the faithful in #China to you. We ask you to present to the Lord of history the trials and tribulations, the petitions and the hopes of all those who pray to you, O Queen of Heaven! #PrayTogether #MaryHelpOfChristians.”
Meanwhile Katharina Wenzel-Teuber, the editor of the monthly China Today magazine, which is published by the China Centre run by Divine Word missionaries at St Augustin near Bonn in Germany, told KNA that the fact that Cardinal Zen, who was arrested on 11 May, had been released on bail should not be seen as an all clear. “It isn’t over yet”, she warned. “It is to be feared that he will be put on trial.”
Francis on Sunday drew special attention to 24 May as the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians and decreed by Pope Benedict XVI as a day of prayer for the Church in China.
“I invite all of you to unite yourselves in this prayer so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquillity, might live in effective communion with the universal Church, and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone,” Francis said.