International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on March 9 dozens of local authorities forcibly entered the Shangqiu Catholic Church South Cathedral in Henan Province, quarantined the priests and nuns in the building, and started to tear down crosses from the church.
Without official documentation or notice, the unidentified group occupied the church, secured the doors and shut down electrical power. Frightened and confused, priests at the church called the police to report the intruders. The police, however, took the priests away and confiscated their cell phones. The group then barred the remaining nuns and priests from entering or leaving the site.
The removal of crosses lasted about five hours despite church staff and volunteers’ efforts to protect the church. A Twitter video shared by Father Francis Liu shows a crane moving a cross from the church roof to the ground.
According to a Chinese website Catholics Online, the alleged intention of local authorities was to forcibly occupy the church and its property, but they failed to do so and instead went on to remove crosses from the rooftop.
Shangqiu Catholic Church South Cathedral is sanctioned by the government and was accredited as a “Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level” in 2002. In 2013, the State Administration of Religious Affairs also recognized the church as one of the “Nationwide Harmony-Creating Religious Venues.” It was built by Spanish Augustinian missionary Francis-Xavier Ochoa OESA in 1924 and is now attended by thousands.
China Aid, a watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China, stated on their website, “[We] condemn Xi Jinping and his government authorities who initiated this campaign of hatred against Christianity. This type of extreme act will not weaken the growth of Christianity in China, nor will it bring any positive impact to Xi’s regime.”
A day after the cross removal, however, Hebei Priest Yang Jianwei confirmed that as ofSunday, the authorities had replaced the crosses, though smaller in size and number. A source familiar with the incident also said, “They claim that the local authorities had a misunderstanding so they put the crosses back!”
ICC’s Regional Manager Gina Goh said, “As President Xi Jiping moves to become China’s leader for life, religious liberty continues to erode. The crackdown on churches used to be targeted mostly at underground communities, but we are now seeing increasing assaults and harassment on state-sanctioned churches as well. Please pray for the Church in China to persevere despite growing persecution.”
To read more Christian persecution news, visit www.persecution.org.
Publication date: March 14, 2018