How do Christians live in China? Krynica.info interviews Chinese priest
There are a lot of news about the persecution of Christians in China. The authorities of the country demolish church crosses, arrest the believers and confiscate Christian literature. Krynica.info managed to talk with a Catholic priest from China and to learn how Christians live in the country. The priest asked not to mention his name.
Krynica.info: How many Christians are in China nowadays?
Priest: There are about 40 million Protestants. And their number grows very fast. And Catholics are about 12 million including Underground and Open Churches.
Krynica.info: In what regions do Christians live mostly?
Priest: Mostly in the North of China. In the South there are very few Christians. And the biggest group of Catholics live in Hebei Province in the North of China.
Krynica.info: Do Christian live mostly in the cities, towns or villages?
Priest: They live mostly in villages. There are very few Christians in the cities and in the towns. And nowadays many people move from villages to the cities and to the towns. And villages now disappear every day. So the churches also almost disappear due to migration. Not really disappear but move to the towns and the cities. In some villages the churches are empty.
Every year in China we have new members joining us. For example, in my parish there are about 200 new members, young and old, every year. Every year we have more than 200 people baptized or joined our parish.
Krynica.info: Was the Catholic Church in China seriously damaged under the Cultural Revoluton?
Priest: Yes, it was. For example, I was baptized by my grandfather. At the time there was no church. The church building and everything that belonged to the church were confiscated by the government. And the government didn’t allow people to show their faith. So my grandfather and his family prayed particularly in their room. They used to do it in their bed before sleep. But they taught me how to make a cross, how to pray rosary, Our Father or Hail Mary. My faith came from family education, because there was no church at the time. My grandfather was a priest, and at the time he was in prison. So Church was maintained and continued within the families from generation to generation.
Still many families pray together every evening or every morning in home.
Krynica.info: You mentioned Underground and Open Churches. What’s the difference between them?
Priest: The difference appeared on political reasons. So-called Underground Church is not really underground. They are just disagreeing with the rules and regulations imposed by the government. They refuse to join into the Patriotic Association. In my region we don’t have either Underground of official Church, but one Church. We don’t belong to the Patriotic Association, but we have to obey to the governmental rules.
Krynica.info: What’s the main goal of the Patriotic Association?
Priest: The Patriotic Association was established by the government. They tried to create a Church in a Chinese way with its own mission, self-support, self-maintenance and self-dominion. They wanted to stop the relations between China and Vatican. According to the Catholic tradition, a bishop is appointed by the Pope. Our government forces a bishop to say no to Vatican. And Patriotic Association ordains the bishops among the Catholic priests in the country.
The government doesn’t appoint a bishop. Nobody appoints them. The government pulls a candidate from the Patriotic Association. But even if other priests won’t support him and government likes him the government will support him. It will force some priests to vote for him as for a candidate and force bishops to ordain him as a bishop. You can say that Chinese Bishops Council appoints him. But in Catholic Church local bishops have no right to appoint a bishop. He can be appointed only by Pope. That’s why very few Chinese Catholic lay people accept the bishops, appointed by the Bishops Council.
But now I think about 95% of bishops are recognized by Pope. Some of them were recognized before ordination, some of them after.
Krynica.info: As far as I know there are also some bishops who were appointed by Pope, but not recognized by the state.
Priest: Yes, there are some underground bishops, who are not recognized by the government. Some of them are put in jail, but in some cases government just doesn’t care. For example, there is a bishop in my region who is not recognized by the government because government doesn’t like him. But Pope Benedict appointed him. And he was ordained in about 2006. I’m not sure because ordination was secret. And government sent the people to spy him every day for 24 hours. When he goes somewhere on his pastoral work the government will send the police to accompany him.
Krynica.info: How do you see the future of the Church in China?
Priest: I’m happy to see that the Church is growing. I can say that the situation is getting better and better. And I hope that the government will give us more freedom to continue our work. For example we don’t have a school. Before we had universities, middle schools, but now we don’t have any. And the government confiscated all our schools, hospitals. We hope in the future we will be able to continue these kinds of job and run schools, kindergartens, hospitals and the houses for elderly people. And the government doesn’t allow it. That’s not easy.
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