The authorities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continue to imprison and “disappear” Catholic priests and bishops who refuse to join the church controlled by the CCP.

Recent reports indicate that clergy who choose to remain outside the orbit of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA) have been forced to remain under house arrest or have gone directly missing.

The Catholic Church in China

Since the CCP took power by force in China in 1949, spiritual beliefs have been one of its main targets of repression.

As far as Catholics are concerned, the faithful have been divided between those who want to follow the Vatican and those who are grouped under the orbit of the CPCA, which is controlled by the CCP.

Two years ago a provisional agreement between the CCP and the Vatican for the appointment of bishops was signed. Although the terms of the agreement have been kept secret, it seems that it has been agreed that the CPCA will propose priests for the position of bishop, from which the pope would then select one for the appointment.

According to UCA News, after the controversial agreement between Rome and the CCP, “underground”clergy were encouraged to join the state or official church, which implies affirming the authority of the CCP on church matters.

It is within this framework that many underground clergy have refused to be under the orders of the CPCA.

Seeing this situation, the Vatican has recognized that some clergy may choose not to join the CPCA for reasons of conscience. However, those who choose to be independent of the CCP see their freedom of belief threatened.

Persecuted and ‘disappeared’ priests

A priest from the Diocese of Yujiang, a district under the administration of Yingtan Prefecture, Jiangxi Province, told Bitter Winter that he was summoned three times in just two weeks by local officials, “They told me that I would be prohibited from celebrating Mass if I refuse to join,” he said. “They even threatened to punish me according to the National Security Law if I do,” the priest said.

UCA News also cites the case of Bishop Lu Xinping of Nanking, capital of Jiangsu Province, who has been banned from celebrating Mass and forced to remain under house arrest.

In Fujian Province, Father Liu Maochun of the Mindong Diocese had been arrested by the Office of Religious Affairs. According to Asia News, after being missing for several weeks, Liu returned home on Sept. 18.

The future of the agreement

The news of priests under house arrest comes just days before the expiration of the agreement between the Vatican and the CCP, which expires in October.

Since the signing of the agreement with the CCP, many priests have denounced the harassment by civil authorities because they have refused to join the CPCA. There have even been dozens of reports showing that the CCP has directly demolished churches.