The auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Mindong, Guo Xijin, strong-armed again to join the Patriotic Church; rebellious places of worship shut down.
by An Xin
Although the Vatican’s pastoral guidelines of June 28 state that the decision of priests and bishops who refuse to join the Patriotic Catholic Church should be respected, the CCP continues to intimidate, harass, threaten, and jail conscientious objectors and forcibly shuts down churches which are not under its control.
Bishop Guo Xijin threatened again
Msgr. Guo Xijin, the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Mindong in the southeastern province of Fujian, has become a target of government persecutions ever since he signed an application to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) after the authorities had agreed to modify its text, but he later retracted his signature. On June 29, the government assigned personnel to monitor Bishop Guo and all the priests in the diocese who hadn’t signed the application. The bishop was pressured repeatedly to join the CPCA, threatened to be branded an “illegal bishop” and punished.
On September 6, the local United Front Work Department once again summoned Msgr. Guo Xijin to make him join the CPCA. If he refused, the officials threatened to remove 14 icons of the Way of the Cross and the statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus in his home village of Xiyin under the jurisdiction of Fujian’s Fu’an city. At the same time, the priest of the village’s Catholic church was also pressured to join the CPCA. Both bishop and the priest refused to compromise.
A priest from the Diocese of Mindong told Bitter Winter that wanting to exploit Bishop Guo’s influence to force more Catholics into the Patriotic Catholic Church, officials offered the bishop to move into the bishop’s residence in Ningde city, but Msgr. Guo refused again. Infuriated by his defiance, the government is stepping up efforts to coerce him into joining the CPCA.
Not only bishops and other members of the clergy are repeatedly intimidated and harassed, but the government also pressures regular Catholics. A churchgoer from Ningde told Bitter Winter that when the priest of a church that is not under the government’s control got ill, the CCP used the opportunity to replace him with a CPCA priest. The congregation protested, refusing to attend Mass presided over by the state-approved priest.
The church members’ protests were met with immediate suppression by the government: the local government officials pressured the church’s manager to restrict congregation members from going out of town to attend Mass.
Religious venues shut down for refusing to join the CPCA
On August 4, a church in the Archdiocese of Fuzhou, located in Fujian capital’s Cangshan district, was shut down after having served believers for over a decade, because it refused to become part of the CPCA. The official reason given by the government was that it violated fire safety regulations.
A church in Dayangshu town in Oroqen Autonomous Banner of Inner Mongolia was closed down at the end of last year. Left without a place to worship, nearly 100 church members celebrated the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven on August 15 on a mountaintop.
In early April, more than 30 officials from the Raozhou subdistrict office of Poyang county in the southeastern province of Jiangxi raided a Catholic church and ordered to shut it down because they claimed it was an unlicensed, “privately-established meeting venue.”
But this may not be the real reason for the crackdown. The venue’s host told Bitter Winter that when shutting down the church, the officials threatened her that being a member of a church that is not controlled by the state means that she is loyal to the Roman Pope. The official is apparently unaware that, under the Vatican-China deal of 2018, even the CPCA should recognize the ultimate right of the Pope to formally appoint bishops for the Catholic Church in China, even if these bishops should be selected in agreement with the CCP.
“It’s forbidden to believe in the God of foreigners. If you’re going to believe, then you must believe in ‘sinicized’ Catholicism,” the officials proclaimed. “You cannot host gatherings; if there are more than three people, all of you will be arrested.”
“The CCP aims to eliminate all churches that it doesn’t control,” an elderly Catholic from Raozhou commented. “Xi Jinping is capable of anything; he has even altered the Constitution. The Church is facing a calamity now, we have returned to the days of the Cultural Revolution.”