Multiple parishes have been closed and a number of priests evicted in China over what critics say is an effort to punish independent Catholics for not joining up with the state-affiliated Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CCPA).
Officially, five parishes have been closed in what authorities are calling “fire safety” grounds, AsiaNews reported.
A church-run elderly care home was also reportedly closed in Saichi, a town in the southeastern coastal province of Fujian.
Critics say the closures are retribution against priests who are refusing to join China’s state-affiliated church.
One Catholic clergy member reportedly left homeless is Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin, the former ordinary bishop of Mindong, Fujian. Bishop Guo, who had always remained loyal to the Vatican, agreed to step aside at the behest of the Holy See, Crux reported.
Bishop Guo’s demotion was reportedly key to an effort at reconciliation between Beijing and the Vatican which signed an agreement in September, 2018 concerning bishop appointments in China. As part of that deal, seven bishops who had been appointed by Beijing without papal consent were recognized.
As persecution against Christians has reportedly ramped up since that agreement, critics have called on Pope Francis to repudiate it.
In November 2019, AsiaNews reported that local government and religious affairs department officials had repeatedly visited Bishop Guo in an effort to convince him to join the CCPA.
At that time, Bishop Guo said he was “very tired” as a result of the constant state surveillance and harassment, saying he hoped the Catholics of the world would pray for him.
Fujian in particular has borne the brunt of authorities desire to stamp out dissenting Catholics.
Earlier this month, the religious-affairs magazine Bitter Winter reported that every venue of the underground Catholic Church in two districts of Fuzhou, Fujian had been shuttered.