The Chinese government continues to imprison Catholic clergy – including bishops – who refuse to support the Communist Party, according to a new report out of the province of Jiangxi.
According to UCA News, priests in the Diocese of Yujiang who refuse to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association have been placed under house arrest as of September 1. These priests have been forbidden from “engaging in any religious activity in the capacity of clergy” as part of their punishment.
For decades, the Church in China had been split between the “underground” Church, in full communion with Rome, and the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which was not. The communist government appointed bishops for the CPCA.
In September 2018, news was released of a provisional agreement between Beijing and Vatican officials, intended to unify the underground Church and the CPCA. While the terms of the agreement have been kept confidential, it reportedly allows the CPCA to choose a slate of nominees for bishop, from which the pope would then select in making his appointment.
Following that agreement, previously underground clergy were encouraged to join the state church, which involves affirming Communist Party authority over ecclesial affairs. Many underground clergy have refused to do so, citing doctrinal conflicts between Church teaching and CPCA rules. The Vatican has recognized that some clergy may choose not to join the CPCA for reasons of conscience.
The clergy under house arrest reportedly include Bishop Lu Xinping of the Diocese of Nanking, who has been forbidden from celebrating Mass. Bishop Xinping has been recognized by the Vatican, but was consecrated as a bishop of the CPCA.
The news of priests under house arrests comes as the original Vatican-China deal is set to expire. The deal, which was signed in September 2018, expires next month. It is expected to be renewed.
Since the signing of the China deal, many priests have reported harassment from civil authorities as they have refused to join the CPCA. There have been scores of reports of the Chinese Communist Party tearing down churches for dubious reasons, such as permitting issues.
Persecution has been particularly intense in the province of Jiangxi. There, the Public Safety Bureau and the United Front Work Department informed clergy that unless they joined the CPCA, they would not be permitted to preach.
Additionally, the Chinese Communist Party attempted to re-write the 10 Commandments to better reflect communist principles, and is working on a rewrite of the Bible.
Elsewhere in China, a priest has been kidnapped for over two weeks due to his refusal to join the CPCA.
According to AsiaNews, Fr. Liu Maochun of the Diocese of Mindong has been held by the Religious Affairs Bureau for 17 days. The Diocese of Mindong is located in the Fujian Province.
Fr. Liu is not recognized as an official member of the clergy as he belongs to the “underground” Church.
Per AsiaNews, Liu’s whereabouts have been unknown since September 1, after he was taken by the Religious Affairs Bureau following a pastoral visit to a hospital.