CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 February 2018

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New regulations squeeze violates China constitution

HONG KONG (UCAN): With China’s new regulations for religious affairs having come into effect on February 1, the squeeze is on. Minors have already been banned from entering places of worship in several regions, while Protestant house churches in Henan province have been forced to close (Sunday Examiner, February 11). 
 
Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, former bishop of Hong Kong, said that one source informed him there would be no Mass at an unofficial church in Shanghai.
 
“The priest has told Catholics not to come because there will be no Mass since they have not registered,” Cardinal Zen said.
 
One priest in Hebei province, who requested anonymity, said that authorities had asked priests in some parts of the province to post signs prohibiting minors from entering religious venues, prayer houses and other church premises.
 
“They also threaten churches that they cannot be used if they refuse to post the signs,” he said.
 
Peter, a Catholic in central China, said he had seen such signs posted in churches in Xinjiang.
 
He observed that there are no legal grounds for officials prohibiting minors from entering religious venues. He accused them of violating China’s constitution as it clearly stipulates that citizens have religious freedom, while protection laws state that teenagers and children cannot be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. 
 
“When minors enter Internet bars, the government and police turn a blind eye. However, they are becoming very strict in prohibiting minors from entering religious venues. It is ridiculous,” he said.
 
Father Thomas from Henan said that authorities plan to call him to discuss how to exercise the new regulations.
 
“All religious sites must be registered. No religious activities can be held beyond registered venues, non-registered priests are forbidden to host religious liturgies, and party members and minors are prohibited from entering a church,” he said.
 
“The ‘living space’ for the Church is decreasing,” he lamented.
 
One priest with the unofficial Catholic community in northeast China, Father John, said that authorities had spoken to him about the revised regulations.
 
“Officials really do not want us to be underground which would mean they would lose track of us and not know where we are. If we really engage in clandestine activities, we are really a problem for them,” he said.
 
He noted however, that, “If the religious affairs bureau and the public security bureau understand us, they would not have any worries.” 
 
Father John said, “Personally, I do not want to be hidden but if we are not allowed to have our religious gatherings, the only option is to become clandestine.” 
 
According to a February 4 report on Xinhuanet, document No. 1 issued by the central government stressed that no illegal religious activities are allowed in villages.
 
The document said authorities would act according to the law to step up efforts to crack down on illegal religious activities and foreign infiltration in rural areas, stop the use of religion to interfere with public affairs in villages, and continue to rectify the arbitrary construction of temples and religious statues in villages without approval.

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