The Church in China

The Church in China

Paul Simmons

I wish to respond to the letter "China and the Holy See" by Francis Vrijmoed of Shenzhen, China ( AD2000, November 2014).

Mr Vrijmoed suggests that the cause of the lack of dialogue between Rome and the Chinese government is due to the Holy See's diplomatic relations with Taiwan, maintained after the UN withdrew its recognition of Taiwan in 1971.

This analysis is superficial, and seriously misleading.

The facts are that from the time when the Chinese Communist Party seized control of China in 1949, it has attempted to persecute the Church. In the years after the communist takeover, many bishops, priests and lay people were imprisoned, and many were executed for their beliefs.

This has been documented repeatedly over the past 60 years.

Dr Anthony Clark spoke of the appalling savagery inflicted on the Catholics of China after the takeover in Catholic World Report, 14 March 2014.

He said, "The Maoist era marks one of the darkest hours of the Church's history in China, and Chinese Catholics are begging to let the world know about the sacrifices of holy men and women to retain their faith."

Bishop Yang Chongyi told him, "I was in prison during the Maoist era. I watched my fellow Catholics suffer. No one will ever know how many people were tortured and killed. I saw it. They were saints." The bishop asked Dr Clark to tell their story to the world.

The response of China's Catholics was to resist the regime, with many continuing to practise in secret.

When the regime could not destroy the faith, they set up the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to control it.

This sinister body, established in 1957 with the co-operation of some Catholics who collaborated with the regime, was a creation of the government's Religious Affairs Bureau, whose function was to control all religions in China – whether Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist or whatever.

After the Catholic Patriotic Association was established, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter, Ad Apostolorum Principis (At the Tomb of the Prince of the Apostles), which documented the persecution of Catholics in China, and the attempts being made by the Catholic Patriotic Association to control Chinese Catholics.

This is not a historical footnote. The Catholic Patriotic Association continues its work to this day. In 2012, with the approval of the Patriotic Association, Fr Thaddeus Ma Daqin was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai.

At his ordination Mass, Bishop Ma publicly announced that he was resigning from the Catholic Patriotic Association, as membership was incompatible with his duties as a bishop.

The response of the regime was immediate. Bishop Ma was refused permission to continue to serve as a bishop and was placed under house arrest at the diocesan seminary, located just outside Shanghai. He remains under house arrest to this day.

Since Xi Jinping was appointed President of China in 2013, there has been increased persecution of dissenters in China, including Christians.

The left-wing Guardian recently reported, "China's estimated 60-70 million Christians have not escaped persecution during the Christmas period, according to reports from Beijing suggesting their plight has worsened under the new leadership. Members of Shouwang, a Beijing Christian group, told Agence France-Presse that several pastors had been under house arrest since they tried to arrange Easter services in a public square in 2011.

"Most Chinese Christians shun state-run churches and worship in 'house churches' beyond government control. But official tolerance of such independent activity is waning, judging by a crackdown on 400 churches in eastern Zhejiang province, some of which were reportedly demolished."

There can be no permanent accommodation between Christianity and Chinese communism while the party continues to persecute the Church.

East Sydney, NSW

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