BEIJING, December 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Chinese priest, in the midst of a government crackdown on Christians and the celebration of Christmas, has stated that the communist government is wrong to reject Christian culture and civilization.
“Now, there are government, business and school executives who order that we should no longer celebrate Christmas, in deference to the flag of Chinese culture and civilization. But should Chinese culture and civilization reject other cultures and civilizations? If all nations care only about their own cultures and civilizations, how can cultural integration take place, through exchanges between different cultures?” wrote the priest, identified only as “Father Pietro,” in Dec. 23 article in AsiaNews.
The priest called on China to acknowledge how much it owes to missionaries.
“Christianity has not only brought faith to the Chinese people, but also science, philosophy, medicine, mathematics,” he said.
“Most Catholic missionaries in the late Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty possessed scientific qualities and were specialists in mathematics. Just think of Matteo Ricci, Nan Huairen (the Belgian Ferdinand Verbiest, 1623-1688), Tang Ruowang (the German Adam Schall von Bell, 1592-1666) and others. They not only brought European science to our country, but even translated Chinese culture into books and brought it to Europe. If we had not learned from European civilization, I fear that we Chinese would still have a pigtail and would have neither planes nor cannons,” he added.
Father Pietro wrote, “Christmas is the feast of the incarnation of God who mingles with man. In this way, this festival is also the model of integration and dialogue between cultures.”
He went on to say that the various civilizations “must tolerate and complement each other, so they can shine together.” China’s “short-sighted nationalism and Nazism” and its “ignorant and uncivilized” anti-western Chinese struggle,” he wrote, will lead to the “destruction of cultures and civilizations on a worldwide and regional scale.”
Fr. Pietro wrote: “Jesus Christ was born Jewish, in Israel, a small Asian country. Christ's forgiveness and brotherhood have influenced Europe and the world. Wherever I go, the Catholic Church always presents the noble nature of faith to peoples, shows respect for local civilizations and the will to assimilate positive elements from them.”
“Jesus Christ became incarnate and became one of us, precisely because we men and women can understand that we are all brothers and sisters, loving each other as members of the same family. Only with this awareness can the world become truly beautiful, truly human, like an Heaven on earth,” he concluded.
China’s clamp-down on Christians
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is demanding that Christians rewrite the Bible to suit the communist state.
A report by French daily Le Figaro says that the Chinese government is demanding that Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims alter their respective sacred texts in order to conform with “the requirements of the new era.” According to the report, Christians’ Gospel parables should fall “in line with the Communist Party, failing which they run the risk of being purged from the Bibles available to the faithful.”
As part of China’s ongoing “sinicization” — an official effort to force Chinese Christians to conform to the Communist party’s vision of nationality — non-conforming translations of the Bible must be modified and translated again. Le Figaro’s report said that religious leaders were summoned to a meeting following the 4th plenary meeting this year of the Chinese Community Party Central Committee. Wang Yang, who chaired the meeting, stressed to the representatives “the fundamental importance of the interpretation of the religious rules and doctrines,” which must “gradually form a religious ideological system with Chinese characteristics.”
President Xi Jinping (66), who has been in power since 2012, is believed to be responsible for stepping up the Party’s demands.
Even while China produces much of the Christmas cards, bric-a-brac, and decorations, there have been recent moves to ban the celebration of the feast. Recently in Hengyang, a city in Hunan province, officials posted a notice on social media advising that anyone caught holding Christmas sales or celebrations that blocked the streets will face punishment. It advised Chinese Communist Party members to be “models of adherence to Chinese traditional culture” and avoid foreign festivals.
Children are not allowed to officially convert to Christianity until they reach the age of 18, while school children are taught that the Christian faith is an “evil cult.” School children are encouraged to inform authorities about family members who convert. Also, a wider array of government agencies are empowered to take action against unauthorized Christian worship.
Even after the Vatican concluded a preliminary but secret agreement with Beijing in 2018, persecution of non-conforming bishops and priests has increased. Rather than sign a declaration of fealty to the government, which is allowed under the agreement, Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Guo Xijing fled government custody and is now believed to be in hiding. He had been summoned by a bishop who conforms to the schismatic and officially-endorsed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which the Vatican has sought to reconcile through diplomatic means led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
In addition to evangelical Christian churches and meeting places, Catholic churches have been shuttered.
The outspoken retired Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has appealed personally to Pope Francis over these diplomatic overtures, warning that they amount to papal endorsement of schism. Zen says that the Pope has not heeded his warnings. Representatives of the US government have also criticized the Vatican-Beijing agreement.