Government officials shut down Christmas Mass celebrations in the Archdiocese of Fuzhou under the pretext of “keeping stability.”
It took only one line of a hymn before a priest was forced to end a Christmas mass, thanks to the ongoing closures of Underground Catholic Church meeting venues in the Archdiocese of Fuzhou, in China’s southeastern province of Fujian.
Over the Christmas season, three underground Catholic churches in Fuzhou were raided and suppressed by Chinese authorities. And on Christmas day, more than 1,000 believers were driven from a mass on Zhongting Street in Fuzhou city.
“Why did you come here in the evening? Get out, get out. You can’t hold a mass. You can’t enter,” sub-district office personnel told the believers. “You shouldn’t be doing this in the first place.”
After saying this, eight police officers stormed into the church, shouting at the members of the congregation there, threatening to turn off the electricity. It was a threat they quickly followed up on, turning the church into complete darkness.
Sub-district office personnel are dispersing the believers:
After the believers were dispersed, someone who appeared to be the head of the sub-district office arrived, asking whether the priest held mass, to which a smug official who participated in expelling believers from the church proudly answered in the negative, saying it wasn’t held because he intervened and called the police.
“We’ve done what the National Security Brigade should have done [referring to restricting the church from holding Christmas activities],” the official said.
On Christmas Eve, authorities from Gushan town under the jurisdiction of Fuzhou city mobilized roughly 100 grassroots police assistants and over 100 special police officers to control the Haiyan Catholic Prayer Hall and prevent it from holding a worship service. Police tape was wrapped around the meeting hall – covering a distance of tens of meters. According to witnesses, due to a large number of people that were willing to come to the Christmas Eve Mass, the authorities had distributed special admission cards to enter the church, limiting the number of worshipers to about 300.
One church member told Bitter Winter that half of the seats inside the church were removed, and eight people were limited to sitting on one row of chairs. During the Mass, officials continuously entered the church to inspect and take photos. That evening, only one Mass was allowed to be held.
Prior to this, Fuzhou city’s Nanhu Community Catholic Church, which has previously been raided and harassed, was also once again restricted over the Christmas period. The authorities canceled all of the church’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meetings and events under the pretext of “maintaining stability.”
These incidents confirm that the Vatican-China deal of 2018 is not leading to a greater opening towards the Catholic communities in the so called Underground Catholic Church. The CCP simply asks them to join the Patriotic Catholic Church, and sometimes not even this is enough to avoid restrictions and harassment.
Reported by An Xin