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Hebei province tops the baptism ladder

HONG KONG (UCAN): The region of Hebei in China recorded 4,446 baptisms over Easter, the highest number so far reported.


Provinces with over 1,000 on record include 1,593 in central Shanxi, 1,327 in southern Guangdong, 1,234 in northwestern Shaanxi, 1,169 in eastern Shandong, 1,168 in eastern Zhejiang and 1,097 in central Henan.


Hebei has the largest Catholic population in China with nearly one million and is a stronghold of the unofficial Catholic community. Shaanxi, Shanxi and Zhejiang are also traditional Catholic provinces, each with a population of more than 200,000.


Eleven other provinces had several hundred whereas the Tibet autonomous region, where 92 per cent of the population is Buddhist, and Hainan province recorded only one and eight.


Hainan baptises each year at Easter and Christmas. “Our Catholics are fluid. Half of them are what we dub migratory birds, as they come from the north to this southernmost province only for winter,” Father Zhang Wenmin said.


“They were given three months’ systematic instruction before we decided they were fit for baptism,” he explained.


Preliminary figures show 19,087 people were baptised at Easter this year, but as some dioceses were still compiling their figures as of April 25, Hebei Faith Press said it is still collecting data.


“We have tried our best to collect figures from both official and unofficial communities,” Father Li Rongpin said.


In the statistics table, Kaifeng was the only diocese in Henan with no baptisms. Father Han Zhentao said he baptised two children and six adults in his parish this year, but did not get the figures in before the deadline.


“The growth is more or less the same as last year when I baptised 10 people. Some were introduced to the Church through friends and some were converts from the Protestant Church as they felt Catholicism suited them more,” Father Han explained.


Henan province also has the highest Protestant population in China. However, the estimated figure varies from two million to nearly five million, as many belong to the House Churches.

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