All religious decorations and furnishings have been removed from an underground Catholic church in Henan’s Baizhuang village as a punishment for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
It took less than two weeks for the local authorities to remove all religious symbols, decorations, and furnishings, as well as to destroy the statues of Jesus and the Holy Virgin in the Catholic church of Baizhuang village in the central province of Henan. Located in Pingdingshan city’s Jia county, the village may ultimately lose the 116-year-old church, because its congregation and management are refusing to join the government-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
According to congregation members, since June this year, provincial and local authorities have been trying to make the church display a CPCA sign but failed each time because of fierce resistance from the local Catholics to be governed by the state-appointed religious agency. The church has since become the target of persecution, with surveillance cameras immediately installed across the entire church to monitor it 24 hours a day.
The process of dismantling started in the afternoon of November 1, when the village’s party secretary brought to the church a local thug and another villager and ordered them to dismount from a wall the portrait of Jesus and cut it into pieces. According to one believer, a member of the congregation had spent over a month to paint the picture. “The paint and other materials alone cost 8,800 RMB (1280 USD),” the believer said.
Video: The church’s interior before and after all its furnishings and symbols have been removed.
Five days later, the deputy secretary of Jia county, accompanied by 20 personnel from the county’s Justice Bureau and other government institutions, as well as the police, drove to the church in 12 vehicles and ordered the hired workers to destroy the writings engraved on its frontal exterior wall. An ornament and three Chinese characters Tiān Zhǔ Táng, meaning Catholic Church, were removed from the gate, and the statue of the Holy Virgin on the east side of the church was also demolished.
Video: An ornament and three Chinese characters Tiān Zhǔ Táng, meaning Catholic Church, were removed from the gate of the church.
The next day, a crane was driven into the church to demolish the statue of Jesus.
In the following days, the authorities took to destroying the cross atop the church’s bell tower. Because of its size and weight (250 kilograms), the workers had to put up a steel scaffolding to reach the cross and split it into three parts before removing it. The workers later used electric drills, hammers, and shovels to destroy the tower, made of steel and cement.
One believer used his mobile phone to take photos of the demolition of the statue of Jesus but was noticed by the officials on the site. The man managed to run away, and a team of officers was dispatched to catch him in order to prevent the images of the demolition from leaking. Additional one hundred armed police officers were deployed to guard the area around the church so that nobody could take photos.
By November 12, all religious symbols and furnishing inside and outside the church have been removed and destroyed. The director of the United Front Work Department threatened that anyone who is found worshiping in the village would be arrested. Anonymous government sources revealed that the ultimate plan is to destroy the church entirely.
The incident confirms that at the local level Chinese authorities interpret the Vatican-China deal of 2018 as simply meaning that the communities of the Underground Catholic Church should now be compelled to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Reported by Jiang Tao