As you know, I continue to follow events in mainland China given the apparent desire of the Holy See to establish some kind of diplomatic ties with this communist country. In addition to friends I have in Asia, AsiaNews and UCAN are my principal sources of information because I know they have reliable people on the ground as well as many contacts with the faithful – both the government approved Patriotic Catholic Association and the persecuted “underground” Church.
Here is a very telling piece by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews:
XINJIANG: CROSSES, DOMES, STATUES DESTROYED: THE NEW ‘SINICIZED’ CULTURAL REVOLUTION
Crosses removed from the domes and the tympanum of Yining Church as well as external decorations and crosses, and the Way of the Cross within the church. The same happened at the churches of Manas and Hutubi. The Cross represents “a foreign religious infiltration “. Prayer services forbidden even in private houses under the threat of arrests and re-education. Children and young people forbidden to enter churches. Religious revival frightens the Party.
Rome (AsiaNews) – “It’s a new Cultural Revolution”: this most frequent online comment in reaction to photos of the church of Yining (Xinjiang) stripped of the crosses that stood on the building, of the statues that stood on its tympanum and the decorations and paintings that embellished the facade.
The photo that we published (on the left) shows the color, the momentum, the lightness of the domes and wall decorations, the crosses on the top of the building, before their destruction. The photo on the right shows the “after”. Everything was destroyed by order of the government on February 27 and 28, just a few weeks after the meeting between the Chinese and Vatican delegations, which reportedly resulted in the drafting of a “historic” agreement on the nominations of bishops in the Chinese Catholic Church.
Yining, 700 km west of the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, has a Catholic community of a few hundred faithful.
The reference to the Cultural Revolution is a must: in the period from 1966 to 1976 the Red Guards led by Mao and the “band of the Four” implemented the most extreme form of communism by destroying churches, temples, pagodas, prayer books, statues, paintings to annihilate all religion.
But the “Cultural Revolution” of these days is justified by another slogan: “sinicization”. This implies – as Xi Jinping explained three years ago and reaffirmed at the Party Congress last October – “adhering to and developing religious theories with Chinese characteristics”, adhering to the principle of “independence”, adapting religion to socialist society and resisting “religious infiltration from abroad”.
Now the symbol of the cross represents “a religious infiltration from abroad”: from the church of Yining, not only were the two crosses that overlapped the two domes razed to the ground, but also the crosses inside the sacred building have disappeared, including the Way of the Cross and the decorations in the form of a cross have been ripped from the pews.
The iconoclastic fury has also affected other cities. Even before last Christmas, all the crosses from the church of Manas were destroyed and there are rumors that the same happened in the church of Hutubi.
The comparison with the Cultural Revolution does not stop there. Just like then, it is forbidden for believers to pray even in private, in their homes. The police threaten that if they find two people praying together in their home, they will be arrested and forced to undergo re-education.
Under the new regulations on religious activities, proposed last September and implemented last February 1st, worship can only be carried out in church, at the times set by the government. Any other place is considered an “illegal place” and those who break such regulations will be subject to prison, fines, expropriation of the building that houses illegal religious activity. Even private homes are now considered an “illegal place of worship”: in every private house religious conversation or prayer is forbidden, under threat of arrest. The faithful can pray only in church, during Sunday service.
All churches must display a sign at their entrance announcing that the building is “forbidden to minors under the age of 18” must be exposed because children and young people are prohibited from participating in religious rites.
It should be noted that the churches mentioned are not illegal buildings, but officially registered churches. The point is that “sinicization” implies submission to the Chinese Communist Party, which must act as an “active guide” of religions, on which their life or death, every construction and every destruction, depends.
The ruthless and suffocating control of the Party on religions can only be explained by fear. It is now everyone’s experience in China – confirmed by various sociologists – that the country is in the midst of an impressive religious renaissance, to the point that over 80% of the population has some spiritual beliefs and that at least one fifth of the Party members secretly adhere to some form of religion. All this promises more control and persecution in the future.
“I am very sad – a faithful of Urumqi confides to AsiaNews – that the Vatican is compromising with this government. In this way it becomes an accomplice of those who want our annihilation”.