Recent news from China is discouraging. While the Vatican Commission for the Catholic Church in China began its second meeting on 30 March, China has stepped up its persecution of the Church, as AsiaNews.it reports.
The term 'Underground Church' refers to those Catholics who have remained faitheful to the Holy Father and to the unity of the Church down the years. The Patriotic Association was set up by the Communist authorities not long after they took over power in 1949 in an effort to control the Church. However, the reality is far from being black-and-white and most of the bishops linked to the Patriotic Association are now in union with Rome, very often quietly. Those connected with the Patriotic Association are usually referred to as the 'Official Church'. That is what they are from the point of view of the government. However, the vast majority of Catholics in China today were born after 1949 and have inherited a situation they didn't create.
The current instances of persecution are in one particular area, as is often the case in such situations.
There are two reports by Fr Bernardo Cervellera.
Persecution in China as Vatican meeting on China opens
An underground priest is arrested in Hebei for celebrating Mass. Controls are tightened ahead of the anniversary of the death of Mgr Joseph Fan Xueyan, killed under torture in 1992. Like him many underground bishops and priests have disappeared or ended up in camps. Official bishops are also under pressure to submit to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
The Commission for the Catholic Church in China begins a meeting today in the Vatican.
Rome, 30 March (AsiaNews) – The Commission for the Catholic Church in China began its second meeting today in the Vatican. In the meantime in China believers and members of the underground Church are subjected to ever more repression with several bishops and priests under arrest and tighter controls on state-controlled Churches
Sources told AsiaNews that the squeeze is on underground communities in Hebei province near Beijing (home to the highest concentration of Catholics in the country), including on people who meet just to celebrate Mass.
In fact a few days ago, 55-year-old Fr Paul Ma, a priest in Dung Lü, was arrested for celebrating the Eucharist with a few underground parishioners. Full report.
Father Cervellera has another related story the following day.
Police arrest underground Zhengding Bishop Jia Zhiguo
He was taken from his home by 5 police officers. For weeks, he had been under surveillance 24 hours a day, to prevent him from meeting with the official bishop, with whom he had reconciled on instructions from the Vatican. A blow to the Holy See's strategy of unifying the Chinese Church, while the meeting of the Plenary Commission on the Church in China continues at the Vatican. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was also taunted by the police. Full report.
Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China.