Chinese underground bishop on the run from authorities

Chinese underground bishop Msgr. Vincenzo Guo Xijin (Guo), is being hounded by public security agents to force him to sign up to an “independent Church” in exchange for government recognition.

The Chinese Communist Party also wants Guo to attend a meeting of the “independent” clergy of the Fujian, where he is the bishop, after he signs the document.

The Party’s aim is to show Guo’s submission to its rule. In doing so, it hopes to weaken the resistance of underground priests, who are the majority of the clergy of the diocese.

The authorities have been exerting pressure, blackmailing and threatening priests to push them to sign up to the independent Church in exchange for government recognition.

Without government recognition, their ministry is forbidden.

China’s President Xi Jinping says an “independent Church” subject to the Chinese Communist Party is the condition for Catholics to live in China.

Guo is part of a group of bishops many religious and human rights experts feared would be persecuted after the Vatican and Beijing signed a deal (called the Sino-Vatican agreement) last year about ordaining bishops.

The deal followed years of Chinese government insistence that it approve clerical appointments, which clashes with absolute papal authority to pick bishops.

The agreement aimed to pave the way for formal diplomatic ties between the Holy See and the Chinese government. However it also stoked fears that the Chinese state would have too much power to regulate religion.

For underground Catholics, the notion of an “independent” Church is unacceptable.

Guo is described as one of the “victims” of the Sino-Vatican agreement, which has made the diocese of Mindong a “pilot project” for implementing the agreement.

Prior to the agreement, Guo was the ordinary bishop of the diocese – recognised by the Holy See, but not by the government.

The government has shut down all places of worship not sanctioned by the Party.

However, the government claims people have freedom of religion – provided that they worship in state-sanctioned temples, churches, and mosques.

It says all religious believers must “be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people,” making it explicit that they must also “support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”


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