by Anders Hagstrom
Chinese pastors claim officials are closing churches, burning bibles and crosses, and forcing pastors and congregations to sign papers claiming they’ve renounced their faith, The Associated Press reported Monday.
Chinese pastors and the U.S.-based group China Aid report that Chinese Communist Party officials forcibly shut several churches in central Henan province and Beijing in recent weeks, according to The AP. The escalation is part of the officially atheist Communist Party’s efforts to “sinicize” Christianity, or make it more culturally Chinese.
“The international community should be alarmed and outraged for this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief,” Bob Fu of China Aid told The AP.
Fu also cited video footage showing what seemed to be bibles aflame with forms allowing believers to renounce their faith nearby, The AP reported. Fu said the forms marked the first time since freedom of religion was written into the Chinese Constitution in 1982 and since Mao’s Cultural Revolution of 1976 that Christians had been compelled to renounce their faith.
One Chinese pastor who asked not to be identified told The AP that officials entered his church at 5 a.m. and began removing items and burning bibles, crosses and furniture.
China has long been hostile to Christianity, and its Communist Party is in the process of reinterpreting and re-translating the bible to conform with “Chinese-style Christianity.” The government announced the impending “translation” in March, and bibles started disappearing from online marketplaces soon afterward.
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) also bent to the will of the Communist Party and validated the atheist group’s take on Christianity by allowing the state to appoint its own bishops.
Former Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen accused the Vatican of “selling out” to China in January when it decided to remove two of its appointed bishops in favor of Communist-approved bishops.
“Does Cardinal Zen think that the Vatican is selling the Church? Yes, if they go forward in the direction we see in these last years and months,” Zen wrote in a public letter, translated here from Italian.
Zen also confirmed a report from AsiaNews about the replacement of the bishops with government-approved clerics was accurate, as he was the source who supplied the information for the report. A Vatican delegation instructed Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian to resign and Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin to accept a demotion to coadjutor bishop, the report states.
The instruction was part of an ongoing battle between the RCC and the Chinese government over who has authority to appoint bishops in China. The Holy See’s removal of Jianjian and Xijin, the Holy See in favor of government-appointed bishop Huang Bingzhang, whom the Vatican had excommunicated, and bishop Vincent Zhan Silu are all factors that mark a major turning point in that battle.
The Vatican has discussed recognizing a total of seven government-appointed bishops, in exchange for the Chinese government recognizing roughly 20 bishops appointed by the Vatican and 40 bishops appointed by the underground church.
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Anders Hagstrom is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Anders on Twitter.