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December 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Chinese Communist government targeted a nationally known Catholic pilgrimage site, erasing every public trace of religious references and replacing them with Communist Party-sanctioned alternatives as part of a crackdown on Catholicism that has intensified since the Vatican’s secret deal with China.
Every public reference through words or images to God, the Blessed Mother, Heaven, and the saints has been wiped out in the traditionally Catholic village of Zhaojialing in Xiangyuan county in the Northern province of Shanxi, beginning in May, Bitter Winter reported.
The government forced Catholics to remove plaques above their doors inscribed with phrases such as “The Lord bestows great grace,” “Heavenly grace is overflowing,” and “The light of grace shines.”
These have been replaced with secular, politically acceptable phrases such as “Harmony in the family leads to prosperity in all undertakings” and “Homeland filled with happiness.” Street signs that read “The Street of Our Lady of the Fields” and “Gate of Heaven” were replaced with signs that said “The Street of Harmony” and “Gate of Roses.”
Local residents revealed that cameras were installed inside the village church. There are also reports that “the priest and churchgoers often have to gather together secretly.”
“It is not the first time that Catholic images and signs have been eliminated, including in churches of the government-controlled Patriotic Catholic Church. For example, in May this year images of saints and a stele of martyrs in a government-controlled Catholic church in Xingtai city in the central province of Hebei were covered up,” reported Bitter Winter.
This is just one of many instances of the ongoing process of “Sinicization” in China, a campaign that aims to bring religion in line with officially sanctioned interpretations of Chinese culture.
A report released by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) in January brought attention to descriptions of “religious persecution in China over the last year of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”
Even more explosive was the report’s observation of the rise in Catholic persecution since the 2018 China-Vatican agreement that gave the government a say in the appointment of bishops, which Cardinal Joseph Zen called an “incredible betrayal.”
“In September 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holy See, paving the way for the unification of state-sanctioned and underground Catholic communities. Subsequently, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increased persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy,” the report detailed. “The Party-led Catholic national religious organizations also published a plan to ‘sinicize’ Catholicism in China.”
Among the most tragic casualties of the agreement have been the kidnapping and torture of Catholic priests for their refusal to compromise with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Renowned Catholic journalist Dalù, who publicized the Tiananmen Square massacre, recently revealed the methods by which one such Catholic priest, Father Liu Maochun, was tortured.
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He posted a video in which he described how the Chinese Police often bang a gong close to the ears and shine bright lights into the eyes consistently for several days, a form of torture called “exhausting an eagle.”
Fr. Liu is one of a number of 20 priests in the diocese who have “refused to join the state-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” and are thus “viewed as national security threats.” These priests are considered “illegal” and a “subversion of the state.”