Authorities are requiring underground churches to join the state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association if they want to continue holding gatherings.
In Fuzhou city, in coastal Fujian Province opposite Taiwan, authorities have raided and harassed multiple meeting venues of the Underground Catholic Church on the grounds that “to hold gatherings, it is necessary to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).” During the raids, believers were photographed and videotaped, and their personal information was registered. Plainclothes police took secret photos and videos of church clergy while they were changing into their clerical vestments.
In late September, an underground Catholic meeting venue, which could accommodate more than 1,000 worshippers, was closed. According to the building manager, the Vatican-China deal of 2018 seems to have emboldened the Religious Affairs Bureau. Many underground meeting venues have been placed under surveillance, and priests are often summoned for questioning by the National Security Bureau.
The building manager remains sanguine, saying, “We’re not afraid of being questioned. We didn’t do anything wrong. We want a separation of church and state. The government cannot control our beliefs.”
This confirms, once again, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interprets the Vatican-China agreement to the effect that priests and congregations of the Underground Catholic Church should simply join the CPCA.
Around the same time, police in Fuzhou city’s Jin’an district shuttered a meeting venue in an eastside apartment building, saying, “believers must hold their gatherings at an official church (CPCA).” Parishioners at this chapel were required to present their documentation and were videotaped.
In November, the local police limited the size of gatherings to a maximum of 50 people at a Catholic chapel in a basement in the Wanxiangcheng residential district. In addition, prior to gatherings, every believer must present their identification and register, or face the chapel being closed down.
According to local believers, at least four chapels in Fuzhou city have been forced to close. At several other venues, the religious activities and number of congregants have been restricted. Believers have been forced to transfer to other chapels and change the time of their gatherings. Some congregations have arranged for people to stand guard during mass, in the hope of discouraging police raids.
Some parishioners feel helpless. “There is nothing we can do,” one said. “We can try to change our meeting places more often. Maybe it will be harder for them to find us.”
Some believers remain defiant, saying they will never give in to persecution. “When one meeting place is closed down, we will find the next one. We’re engaged in guerrilla warfare with the government now,” one worshipper said. “For those who seek the truth, the path is never easy. The road to the kingdom of heaven is narrow. No matter what, we will not betray God. Even if it means dying, we will never betray Him.”
One underground Catholic priest in the Archdiocese echoed that defiance: “The CPCA is a deformity. In more than 200 countries worldwide, which country has such a patriotic association? The Party uses the CPCA to control the Church. The CCP itself created this situation. On the surface, the Party pretends to have a good relationship with you, but the purpose behind it is to control and destroy Catholicism.”
Reported by Lin Yijiang