HONG KONG (UCAN): Catholics in mainland China have mixed views over Pope Francis’ impending visit to Asia and do not expect it will lead to any easing of persecution by the communist government.
The pope will be in Thailand from November 20 to 23 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the apostolic vicariate of Siam. He will then visit Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan from November 23 to 26.
Father Liu of Hebei, expressed optimism and believes the pope’s Asian trip is a gesture of his concern for the Asian Church. He hopes that the pontiff will visit China soon.
“The countries that he visits this time are adjacent to China—it shows that the pope’s footsteps to China are getting closer and closer,” he said.
Wang Baolu, a Catholic from Hebei, said he still does not understand why the pope has signed a secret agreement on the appointment of bishops with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), saying that the move has not improved religious freedom but has led to more persecution.
Zou Haiming, a Catholic in Shandong, said there had been no comments from the mainland Church about the pope’s Asia visit. “It means that this has not much to do with the mainland Church,” he said.
However, he hopes that Pope Francis will come to China to see how the CCP has persecuted the mainland Church and whether the agreement on bishops was worth it.
Zou said Catholics in Shandong have had no good news since the signing of the agreement.
“On the contrary, the bishops sing red songs (praising the revolution), churches continue to be demolished, and Catholics feel nothing beneficial brought by this agreement, but the suppression and persecution are getting tighter and tighter, overwhelming them,” he said.
Sister Sun from Henan, has no great feelings about the pope’s visit to Asia.
“The Henan Church has been oppressed by the CCP in such a way that it is no longer the Church of God,” she said.
“Children can’t go to church, many churches have been demolished, and religious signs have been replaced by traditional, cultural and patriotic education symbols. It means that churches are no longer the sacred places of the Lord.”