Wednesday, 6 July 2011

China- religion and the Churches

Some commentators on religion in China call it a ''religous state''. China they say is a space and all space in China is seen as sacred, that is, it is inhabited by divine energies which,  because they sustain us , must receive in return our sacrificial recognition.

This view needeless to say, is not the view of the communist party in China today. Religion is viewed by the Party manifesto as a sign of underdevelopment  and when people reach a more advanced stage of development religion will disappear.  Meanwhile, a certain accommodation with religious practice with severe restrictions takes place.  It is estimated there are over 30 million Christians in China and 10 million are Catholic.  The evangelical Christians are increasing while the Catholics remain relative stable in number. House Churches are growing and very difficult to enumerate.

The Catholic tradition in China is a complex one.  There are two Catholic organizations- the underground Church which is not approved by the Government and the Patriotic Church which is approved  and subsidized by the Governemt.  The underground Church has been and is a persecuted Church with many members harassed or in prision.

Rome says there is only one Church but Bishops need to be approved by the Holy See as well as the State. There are over 120 dioceses in China and 80% of the Bishops who hold office at present are recognized by Rome.  In recent weeks the Government has approved Bishops which have not been approved by Rome and this new tension between the State and Rome causes great confusion to the people of God. It is as if, Catholics are caught between two feuding parents- Rome and the State.  While Rome is far away, the State is close  and choosing loyalty either between the State or Rome is a terrible dilemma for good Church leaders.  Local Church leaders have to deal with the intricacies of local bureaucracy whose goalposts keep changing and the State is fearful of meetings between Bishops and all assemblies.  They keep strict surveillance on all their activities. Control is the name of the game and outside interference is seen as an affront to the power and authority of the State. However, people continue to seek the sacraments, spiritual food for their lives and  Biblical knowledge. The outsider is often left baffled,confused, sad at time, yet amazed and joyous on how the spirit of God is working among the people of China.


  1. Thank you John. In my country (Slovakia) the communist regime collapsed because of the members of the party wanted a change too.

  2. these are very interesting views from a westerner. there is one comment i would like to clarify: i think there is no Patriotic Church, but a Patriotic Association which is a section of government body, is in charge of religion affair. all the religions are under its control. all the religions organizations are asked to register with this Association. For the legal reason and more freedom to practice of faith, many catholic churches registered with this Association. They are still Catholic Church not Patriotic Church.