Chinese Christians - Copyright Ricky Wong / REX

Vatican deal with China would be a 'betrayal'

Mon 04 Apr 2016
By Hannah Tooley

China's six million 'illegal' Catholics are worried that the Vatican will not help foster relations with China so that they are free to worship safely, it has been claimed. 

Many Chinese Christians are caught between the Vatican and the Communist Party as the Vatican moves towards a thaw that could see Beijing recognise 'illegal' house churches, but many Catholics may view the move as a betrayal.

Fr Dong Baolu leads a house church - the name given to makeshift churches, in Sgujiazhuang in Hebei province, he told The Daily Telegraph that he was worried that the Vatican will not stand by them as China gets tough.

He said: "It's possible that Rome may betray us.

"If this happens, I will resign.

"I won't join a Church which is controlled by the Communist Party.

"We are suffering like Jesus on the cross.

"We fight for religious freedom and follow the Gospel - but we are not supported by either Rome or China."

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Previously there has been no agreement between the Vatican and China because of the question over who would ordain clergy.

There is dispute between the Chinese government and Rome because Beijing wants to appoint clergy by choosing its hierarchy.

A number of officials appointed by Beijing have been ex-communicated by the Vatican.

Some officials appointed by the Vatican have been locked up by China in the past.

Fr Dong said: "If the independent church is no longer allowed, I will just go home and pray.

"There is only one road for us Catholics."

In recent weeks Pope Francis has appeared willing to compromise, he has praised China and said he hopes to establish a relationship with the country.

Bob Fu, China Aid director said any retreat by Rome would "constitute a betrayal of the Chinese Catholic Church, especially those have suffered even martyrdom."

He went on: "It would be like a father's betrayal of his own children, a saddest day for the independent Catholic Churches in China because the move will legitimise the Communist Party's persecution, past present and perhaps future."

Throughout China around six million Catholics have refused to join state churches sanctioned by Chinese authorities, instead worshipping in 'house churches' loyal to the Vatican.

Comparatively a further six million peoples are members of the Catholic Patriotic Association, a Communist Party-controlled organisation which does not allow any images of Pope Francis.

The government in China has come under criticism in recent years for removing crosses from religious buildings.

A number of Christian groups say it is an example of the state cracking down on religion, but the Communist Party say the cross removal is for health and safety reasons.

At present the Vatican is attempting to start up friendly relations with China in an attempt to protect Chinese Catholics and have a greater involvement in the country.

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