The CCP pressures Catholic priests and nuns to participate in indoctrination activities, like visits to revolutionary heritage sites or classes on patriotic education.
by Zheng Jie
On October 1, the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Catholic priests and nuns from Xuzhou city in the eastern province of Jiangsu were required to attend a commemorative event at the Taierzhuang revolutionary education base in the neighboring Shandong Province. According to a local news portal, the participants visited the site of the battle of Taierzhuang— the first major Chinese victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938—and “paid tribute to the bronze statues of revolutionary martyrs.” They also expressed “their determination to inherit the legacy of revolutionary martyrs” and “love the country and religion, keeping to the goal of sinicizing Catholicism and implementing the core socialist values.” Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau officials required the priests to integrate their experiences during the event into their future sermons “to preach the positive energy of patriotism proactively.”
According to the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, over 20 members of the city’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and the National Administrative Commission of the Chinese Catholic Church (NACCCC), including clergy members, took a trip to “red heritage spots” ahead of October 1. One of the visited places was the Red Flag Canal outside Linzhou city, an irrigation project initiated during the Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward campaign in the late 1950s-early 60s.
President Xi Jinping called the canal “the Party’s valuable spiritual wealth,” making it a mandatory site for local people of faith to visit. During such tours, believers and clergy members listen to interpretations on Chairman Mao’s thoughts about atheism and controlling the nature, based on his saying “battling with heaven is endless joy, fighting with the earth is endless joy, and struggling with humanity is endless joy.” Tour participants also take photos while holding propaganda banners that are later sent to the Religious Affairs Bureau.
Local Catholics told Bitter Winter that after each tour, Religious Affairs Bureau officials urge clergy members to write down their impressions and share them with congregations during church activities. The Bureau reviews the texts and disseminates some among believers.
“Such tours make us feel even more disgusted with the CCP’s ideology, which is rather evil and genuinely unkind,” said a Catholic priest from Henan who was forced to attend the Red Flag Canal tour.
A CPCA priest from Henan surnamed Liu added that forcing clergy members to go on “red tours equals making them sing praises to the Communist Party.” “We go against our doctrine if we follow orders by this government,” he commented. “After President Xi Jinping took power, he adopted many regulations that strip people of their religious liberties. It’s not easy to cope with this demonic government. That is why I intend to leave the CPCA.”
A Catholic from Zhengzhou said he was shocked to hear that nuns are forced to visit revolutionary heritage sites. “Xi Jinping is against God, he wants all people in the world to worship his regime,” the believer added.
“The Communist Party persecutes Catholics and still asks us to love it,” an elderly Catholic from Zhengzhou expressed his dissatisfaction with the ongoing patriotic indoctrination of believers.
A priest from the eastern province of Zhejiang, a CPCA member, said that the pressure on believers to study the CCP’s dogmas is increasing. In July, he had to attend seminars at a local branch of the Institute of Socialism, a central school for Party cadres, established in 1956. All attendees had to write essays, which were sent to the United Front Work Department for review.
A CPCA church priest from Shandong Province told Bitter Winter that he and other clergy members were organized to visit a cemetery for revolutionary martyrs in June and study Xi Jinping’s speeches in July.
“The Communist Party grows and thrives through propaganda,” commented another clergy member from Shandong who was forced to attend patriotic education classes.
Priests and nuns are obliged to attend each patriotic activity if ordered by the CPCA or the NACCCC. “We could be accused of challenging the Party and get into trouble if we refuse,” a priest from Henan said. “Hardly anyone dares to decline, hoping to protect the Church from more suppression. Xi Jinping sinicizes all religions, even the Bible. We are just choking with silent fury in this dictatorship.”
For the past few years, raising the national flag has become obligatory for state-run churches in China. The Minggong Road Catholic Church in the Erqi district of Zhengzhou city had to organize a flag-raising ceremony in September to mark the second anniversary of the Vatican-China deal of 2018.
“The Sacred Heart of Jesus statue in front of the church office building was demolished and replaced with a flag pole on orders from the government,” a congregation member said with sadness. “The church has been rectified beyond recognition over the past year.” He thinks that the government is taking over the church step by step, turning it into a Party organization.
“If we do not listen to them, they will constantly find fault with us, prevent us from celebrating Mass, and may even demolish the venue,” another church member said helplessly.