China makes preaching patriotism compulsory

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A file photo shows a priest hearing confession at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing. The Chinese government said that in addition to meeting health requirements after the COVID-19 outbreak, priests must “preach on patriotism” as a condition for reopening their churches. PHOTO: CNS/Damir Sagolj, Reuters

Catholics are upset about a directive from China’s communist government asking priests to “preach on patriotism” as a condition for reopening liturgical services, suspended earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ucanews.com reported the Catholic Patriotic Association and the Chinese Catholic educational administration committee of Zhejiang province jointly issued a notice May 29 on the resumption of liturgical activities.

Father Liu of Hebei told ucanews.com it would be good to resume church activities, but the requirement on patriotism “is wrong. As members of the universal Catholic Church, we cannot accept and glorify what communists consider patriotic education.”

“As members of the universal Catholic Church, we cannot accept and glorify what communists consider patriotic education.”

Jacob Chung, a Wenzhou parishioner, said the government’s move “has seriously interfered in the internal affairs of religion.”

A church observer in China who sought anonymity said the government was forcing religious leaders to add patriotism and Sinicization as part of religious teaching.

Amid the ongoing trade war with other countries and an economic slowdown at home, the Chinese Communist Party “is afraid of a counterrevolution. So they want people to hold on to patriotism,” he said.

People are seen at the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. A Chinese communist party official indicated that Beijing intends to retain tight grip on the Catholic Church. PHOTO: CNS/Damir Sagolj, Reuters

He said the communists want to “suppress and transform” the Church to sing the communist tune lest Christians criticise the regime.

Religious activities have been gradually resuming since 2 June in Sichuan province, Shaanxi province and Shanghai after the Joint Conference of National Religious Organisations held a video conference on 30 May about plans to reopen religious places.

Churches adhering to strict health precautions

The other terms in the notice issued by Zhejiang authorities, however, are associated with preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The notice asked churches to avoid nonessential religious activities, reduce the number of participants and shorten religious activities. In some provinces such as Sichuan, Christians were asked to seek authorities’ permission to resume religion classes.

Shanghai Diocese has issued a circular limiting the number of people attending services and outlining preventive measures against the pandemic.

Paul Fang from Wenzhou Diocese said parishioners have been looking forward to the resumption of Masses. He said his parish has already purchased temperature checkers, masks, disinfectant and other items.

As the number of people is limited, the parish priest has decided to increase the frequency of daily Masses, Fang said.

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