Beijing, China, Mar 2, 2020 / 15:00 pm
New pictures and video appear to show Catholics praying outside of churches closed by the government in the Diocese of Mindong, China.
Pictures and video provided to the magazine Bitter Winter, published March 1, show Chinese Catholics praying in the dark outside of closed churches, one of which is identified as being in the town of Saiqi. The magazine also published photos of documentation from local authorities closing churches for fire-safety reasons and installing surveillance cameras outside.
Several Catholic churches in the Diocese of Mindong have been closed by the government in recent months. All of the churches reported to have been closed are affiliated with priests and lay Catholics who have refused to register with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
Bitter Winter reported that more than ten churches in the diocese were closed by January 16, in an area that remains heavily-loyal to the underground Catholic Church.
An estimated 90,000 Catholics and 69 priests reside in the Mindong diocese, the vast majority of which are affiliated with the underground Church.
The government cited “substandard fire control measures” for five of the churches, the magazine said.
China is home to more than ten million Catholics, with six million registered as members of the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, according to official statistics. Millions of Catholics belong to the underground Church, which, unlike the CPCA, is not overseen by the Communist party and has always been in communion with the Holy See.
An agreement reached in September of 2018 between the Vatican and China on the ordination of bishops was intended to bring the CPCA into communion with Rome and unify the Church in China. According to some reports, the government’s persecution of the underground Church has intensified after the agreement was signed.