BY Peter Diamond | December 21 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Pray this Christmas for those persecuted for their faith

Catholics in China have strong Faith and hope despite persecution, the Bishop of Galloway has said after a report highlighted the restrictions on freedom to worship in the Communist country.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) highlighted that Bible sales have been banned online and churches were ordered to fly the Chinese flag and sing the national anthem at Mass.

The country has clamped down on religious freedom so much that in some areas children have been banned from attending Mass.

Bishop William Nolan of Galloway Diocese visited China in 2015 with the Columban Fathers, and said it was a positive experience. However, he spoke about the persecution faced by Christians there.

He said: “I was asked to celebrate Mass in the South Cathedral in Beijing which was quite a privilege, although they weren’t allowed to announce I was a bishop through fear of retribution. It is a very delicate situation for Catholics there.”

 

Hope through adversity

He revealed how Catholics in China carry on with their hopes and dreams for the future despite the persecution.

“We went to a village in quite a remote area. They were relaying stories to us about how tough things had been for them.

“The priest there had a very basic and quite run down church and was almost living in squalor. Before he became a priest he had been an architect so he had drawn up designs for a new Church and had an abundance of hope for the future.

“Of course, there are often difficulties in building religious churches in China so he had no intentions of informing the authorities about his plans.

“When we celebrated Mass one morning during the week there were 700 people attending which is astonishing and says a lot about the Faith of people living there. They clung to it.”

Bishop Nolan also explained how he encountered small pockets of Faith during his trip.

“We also met a Sr Mary and she remembered her mother being taken away by the government and badly beaten,” he said. “When she returned a couple of days later her clothes were sticking to her because the blood had dried in.

“It was in that moment Sr Mary said that she knew she wanted to become a nun and has since opened up a convent, so there are success stories out of the persecution.”

 

‘New regulations’

John Pontifex from ACN said the Chinese regime of President Xi Jinping has clamped down on religious expressions out of step with China’s national identity.

“Chinese Catholics are reeling from new regulations introduced in May 2015 in Zhejiang province which specified the colour, size and location of crosses and height of religious buildings,” he said. “Within a few months, it was reported that more than 2,000 crosses and churches had been demolished.”

The Catholic Church’s status in China continues to be complex despite continuing talks between the Vatican and the Chinese Government.

Officially, the state-recognised Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association is not in communion with Rome, while the ‘underground’ Catholic Church remains recognised by and in communion with the Vatican.

This year, the Vatican agreed to recognise a number of state-appointed bishops as part of attempts to resolve the division.

Mr Pontifex added: “Last Christmas, reports from different parts of the country showed that Christians were being offered financial incentives to replace images of the infant Jesus with pictures of President Xi. Christmas parties and Christmas trees have been banned in various institutions.

“Catholics in Scotland can support their Christian brothers and sisters in China by praying to Our Lady of China and Our Lady of Sheshan.

“They can also pray for all those Christians and other minorities who suffer persecution in China today.”

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