Clergy and believers refusing to join the Patriotic Church cannot evade the CCP’s continuous crackdowns and persecution even in the most remote rural places.
by Wang Yong
Following the Vatican-China Deal of 2018, the CCP has mandatorily required all Catholic clergy to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and accept the principle of an “independent, autonomous, and self-administered” church in China. The clergy who refuse are being persecuted and often arrested, their churches are frequently harassed, religious symbols destroyed, and many are eventually shut down. On June 28, the Vatican released new guidelines stating that the Holy See will not mandatorily require Catholic conscientious objectors to join the CPCA.
On May 6, local government officials raided a Catholic meeting venue in the Diocese of Yujiang, in the southeastern province of Jiangxi. According to members of the congregation, to avoid persecution and surveillance, the place of worship was set up in a remote mountain village and was disguised to look from the outside like a regular ancestral hall – a traditional Chinese temple dedicated to deceased family members. However, despite their attempts, the believers could not escape the heavy hand of the CCP.
No members of the congregation were present at the time of the raid, and all faith-related symbols inside the venue were maliciously smashed and destroyed.
“After we arrived, we discovered that the crucifix on the front wall had been dismantled and thrown into a ditch outside, at a nearby mountain. The framed holy paintings that hung on both sides of the wall were smashed and thrown on the floor. Even the monogram of Jesus Christ and the cross on the front of the altar table were removed,” a churchgoer who requested anonymity recalled what he saw after the raid.
On May 13, officials illegally searched the meeting venue once again. They also raided a small two-story building adjacent to the meeting venue and seized all the Catholic keepsakes inside the building. A slogan “Strengthen the management of religious venues and resolutely resist the infiltration of xie jiao” was written on the outside wall of the meeting venue.
After the meeting venue was ransacked, government officials prohibited churchgoers from holding mass there and threatened to arrest the priest and demolish the church if they disobeyed.
The CCP is taking full control of the churches operated by conscientious objectors who refuse to join the CPCA by any means possible: be it constant harassment and threats or arrests of the clergy, hoping that without bishops and priests, they will collapse and believers will eventually disperse. To prevent this from happening, believers ask priests not to take the risk of coming to places of worship. “It doesn’t matter if we’re arrested, but we definitely must protect the priests,” some elderly believers said.
“The CCP is waging a comprehensive investigation of religious belief under the pretext of ‘cleaning up gang crime and eliminating evil,’ demanding each village official to investigate villagers in their respective areas of responsibility. If persons of faith are identified, they must be reported to the higher authorities. If the investigation continues this way, no religious venue will be omitted. No matter how well-concealed a meeting venue is, it will still be discovered,” said the churchgoer.
He also revealed that during the campaign to “clean up gang crime and eliminate evil,” government officials have made visits to meeting venues that refuse to join the CPCA across the Diocese of Yujiang to monitor and intimidate them. Homeowners were prohibited from hosting gatherings of believers, threatened with 200,000 RMB (about $ 30,000) fines. “We have gone a very long time without conducting Holy Mass, nor do we dare to hold activities at will,” the believer added.