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AFP
September 16, 2018
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‘Nowhere to worship’: Crackdown bedevils China’s Catholics

World

AFP
September 16, 2018

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PUYANG, CHINA: A government sign outside a Catholic church in central China warns that children are not allowed to attend mass. “Illegal” churches are being bulldozed. Priests are handing over personal information about their flocks to authorities.

Roman Catholics in Henan province are running out of space to worship as the atheist Communist government steps up a campaign to “Sinicize” religions and demolishes old neighbourhoods to make way for development projects.

The campaign has intensified even as the Vatican and Beijing, which severed ties in 1951, are reportedly close to resolving a longstanding dispute over who gets to appoint bishops. The standoff has split China’s roughly 12 million Catholics between those who follow government-approved prelates and those in “underground” pro-Rome churches.

A tattered poster of Jesus and a few wooden pews beneath bricks and broken planks are the only evidence that a church once stood in Puyang city before it was deemed an “illegal construction”.

Liu Xueshang, a weathered old farmer who spent his life savings to help build it, searched fruitlessly through the fallen branches of the church’s crushed pomegranate trees for its cross. “The church here is now facing a terrible future. We have nowhere to worship and don’t know what we’ll do,” said Liu. Elsewhere in the province, nearly two dozen worshippers and clergymen interviewed by AFP detailed unprecedented measures imposed this year under new religious regulations.

Crosses have been removed from church tops, printed religious materials and holy items confiscated, and church-run kindergartens closed.

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