Rome (AsiaNews) – “The Catholic Church in the province of Henan, in central China, is violently persecuted! Pray for them! “: This is the appeal we received yesterday from different parts of China, along with a list of violent acts that have occurred in recent weeks and which we publish below. The last one in the order of time: the plaque and the tomb of Msgr. Li Hongye, was desecrated and destroyed (see photo 1). Msgr. Li (1920-2011) was bishop of Luoyang, recognized by the Holy See, but not by the government. He spent decades in forced labor camps and dozens more under house arrest. The faithful believe the tomb was targeted because the bore the signs of his episcopal office.
Yesterday, a church in the village of Hutuo (Xicun, Gongyi) in the diocese of Luoyang was also completely destroyed (see photo 2 and video).
The most squalid violence took place in Zhengzhou: on Easter Sunday, last April 1st, during the mass, representatives of the government entered the church and forcibly removed all the children and young people under 18 to enforce the prohibition that is now being applied throughout China: it is forbidden to guarantee religious education to minors under the age of 18. Since then, every Sunday there are government employees at the entrance of the churches to enforce the implementation of the ban.
The reasons for this wave of persecution are various:
some priests believe these acts of violence and prohibitions are the outcome of the systematic application of the new regulations on religious activities.
The persecution takes place in Henan (as well as in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang) because here the Catholic community is a small minority. In a sense, the application of regulations here is a litmus test, to see if resistance is posed, and to study how to suffocate it. Later the regulations will be applied throughout the country, even in places where Catholics are a good percentage of the population, as in Hebei or Shanxi.
The Church of Henan is almost completely an underground Church and in 10 dioceses, except the Diocese of Anyang, there are no bishops recognized by the government; for dioceses without a bishop (for example Luoyang), the Holy See has yet to appoint a successor. The government seems to be fighting against both official and underground communities, but above all against this unofficial Church, especially since it is “without a shepherd”.
One last reason, expressed by a local priest, is that by showing such violence, the government is trying to frighten not so much those who are already Catholics, but people who would like to convert to Christianity, in an attempt to stop the powerful religious renaissance taking place in the country.
Belwo we publish the appeal received here at AsiaNews.
The Catholic Church in Henan Province, central China, has been severely persecuted! Please pray for them!
Zhengzhou Diocese (Henan)
On April 1st, 2018, Easter Sunday, while Mass was being held, government officials rushed into the church to drive away children from the church. Afterwards, every Sunday, a law enforcement vehicle was parked at the entrance of the church, and at least three law enforcement officers guarded the church entrance to prevent the faithful from taking children into the church. Even infants in mothers’ arms were not allowed to enter the church.
The prayer books, hymn books and Bibles were forcibly taken away from three of the parishes of Zhengzhou Diocese, namely Shuanghuaishu Parish, Jiayu Parish and Youfang Parish.
Shangqiu Diocese (Henan)
The government threatened the faithful with sinister means of “not allowing Catholic children to go to school” and “deducting the 60 yuan government subsidy per month from the Catholic elders”. They even went to Catholic families door-to-door and told them: “Now, believing in religion is no longer allowed by the government, and whoever believes in it, your children will not be allowed to go to school; your elders’ subsidies will be deducted; and if you still do not listen to this advice, you will be expelled from public office; and if there are retirees at home, their pension will be stopped”.
The government officials broke the religious tiled couplets at the sides of the doors of the local Catholics’ houses.
Government officials conducted door-to-door publicity campaigns against religious beliefs.
Kaifeng Diocese (Henan)
On the main gate of Qixian Church, there are banners and slogans such as “Qixian Anti-Cult Warning Education Campaign into the Catholic Church” and “Religious Activity Venues Should Not Preach to Minors”.
Anyang Diocese (Henan)
Government officials forcibly put up a board that says: “Minors can’t enter the church” outside the Cathedral, and sent law enforcement officers to guard the Cathedral main entrance on Sundays.
The kindergarten run by Weihui Church was forcibly closed. Law enforcement officers threw out all the kindergarten desks at night, and welded the gates.
The school teachers asked students to report if their parents believe in any religion, and also asked the parents of the students to go to school to register their religious beliefs.
On April 17, the Xincun Church, Anyang Diocese, was raided by the village, township and the Public Security officers, and they pulled away the church’s sacred objects.
Gaoqiangying Church in Hua County, Anyang Diocese, was scrutinized twice, pulled away the church’s sacred objects, and chased out the church guards from the church premises.
Forcibly sealed a house built by the Huaxian County Church, and no decoration is allowed.
Demolishing the Cross of Xincun Church
Puyang Diocese (Henan)
Forcing the parish council presidents to report to the government the information of the church members (name, ID number, work unit, home address, etc.)
Xinxiang Diocese (Henan)
On April 17th, 2018, the government ordered the Church of the North Xishang in Jiaozuo Newly Developed Area to demolish its cross; had taken away the children’s Bibles and books from the church; and taken over the church’s finances.
Luoyang Diocese (Henan)
On April 19, 2018, the Church of Hutuo Village in Xicun Township of Gongyi City was demolished, and became a ruin.
Also on April 19, the tombstone and the grave of late Bishop Li Hongye of Luoyang Diocese was demolished.