Free Press Journal

Nowhere to worship: Crackdown bedevils China’s Catholics


Puyang : A government sign outside a Catholic church in central China warns children are not allowed to attend mass. “Illegal” churches are being bulldozed. Priests are handing over personal information about their flocks to authorities. Roman Catholics in Henan province are running out of space to worship as the atheist Communist government steps up a campaign to “Sinicise” religions and demolishes old neighbourhoods to make way for development projects.

The campaign has intensified even as the Vatican and Beijing, which severed ties in 1951, are reportedly close to resolving a longstanding dispute over who gets to appoint bishops.

The standoff has split China’s 12 million Catholics between those who follow government-approved prelates and those in “underground” pro-Rome churches. A tattered poster of Jesus and a few wooden pews beneath bricks and broken planks are the only evidence that a church once stood in Puyang city before it was deemed an “illegal construction”.

Liu Xueshang, an old farmer who spent life savings on it, searched through the fallen church for its cross. “The church here is now facing a terrible future. We have nowhere to worship,” said Liu.

Archbishop’s sign of repentance

Washington: Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington who was bla­med for not doing enough to deal with paedophile priests in Pennsylvania, prostrated him­self in a sign of repent­ance at a mass dedicated to victims of abuse. “Our pra­yers are for those who were assaulted by serious abuse of the clergy and the further indignity of an ina­dequate response,” said Wuerl.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego added eight priests to its list of those believed to have molested children.