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Catholics kneeling inside the grounds of the church in Wu Gao Zhang, Oct. 31, 2019. AsiaNews
Paul Smeaton

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Chinese Catholics occupy church, pray to prevent its demolition

Paul Smeaton

BEIJING, China, November 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholics in China have reportedly occupied a church in the province of Habei where they are praying and fasting in a bid to prevent government officials from tearing the church down. 

The website AsiaNews claimed in an Oct. 31 report that several of the faithful involved in the protest believe the government has been emboldened in its persecution of religious groups by the Sino-Vatican agreement and that the government authorities claim “the Vatican supports us”.  

The church they are defending is officially registered with the government and AsiaNews claim that the decision to destroy it is likely to be because it does not have the required permits. Priests, who reportedly attempted to dialogue with the authorities, have joined the faithful in their resistance. The report also claims that the faithful in the diocese of Handang believe that 40 more churches are due to be destroyed by the government.

The full details of the 2018 agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party have still not been released, but earlier this year the Holy See released “pastoral guidelines” which permitted Catholics to register with the Chinese government.

Earlier this year LifeSiteNews reported that the agreement was being used to further punish those Catholics who refused to join the government-approved “Catholic Patriotic Association”. 

And recent reports from the online magazine Bitter Winter claim that Protestant churches have also come under attack, with churches displaying the 10 Commandments being ordered to replace them with quotes from President Xi Jinping. 

This is not the first time in the last year that Catholics in China have risked their own personal safety in order to defend their churches against demolition by government authorities. In April of this year reports claimed that 200 faithful organised a sit-in in the Marian shrine and underground Catholic church of Mujiaping. Faced with reportedly “at least 600 government officials” the group declared their willingness to lay down their lives in defence of the church.

Also in April this year Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, and chief negotiator in developing the deal with China continued to urge patience. When faced with the criticism that  the deal had made things worse for Christians and other persecuted religious groups he said that “things in history change very slowly. This is the wisdom of the Holy See. She is not looking for immediate results, she’s looking for a result that is in the hands of God, which is also in our hands as much as we can help God in his plan.”

In September 2018 Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong called for Cardinal Parolin to resign over the deal, describing it as “an incredible betrayal”.

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