The Chinese government’s view on the underground Catholic Church in Yuyencia(Hebei)

Editor’s Note: This is an article (“关于河北省天主教地下势力问题的调查与思考:历史·现状·对策“) published on a socialism study journal (《河北省社会主义学院院刊》1999年 第5期 ).  For those who are not familiar with the conflicts between the Catholic church and communist China, we believe this is a great source of information and thus translated the whole article to English. This article showed the communist scholar’s view of the Yuyencian Catholic Church. The authors clearly see church members as troublemakers and give pieces of advice on how to suppress the influence of  the religion. On the other hand, those incidents and examples documented in this article also provided a snapshot of the current status of the Yuyencian Catholic Church. It shows that even after decades of persecution, temptation, and poverty, the Church still survive and thrive, never compromise the core of its Christian values.


An Investigation and Thoughts of Catholic Underground Forces in Hebei Province:

History, Status Quo, and Strategies

Fu Jinfeng 傅金锋  Xie Cheng 解成

Abstract: Instigated by hostile foreign forces, a Catholic underground force emerged in Hebei Province in the 1980s. It opposes the principle of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that “Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.”, objects to the policy of the “independent and self-managed church” and contributes to the “peaceful evolution” strategy of hostile foreign forces.


Keywords: Hebei Province; Catholicism; underground forces; religious affairs; work policy; China


Chapter 1: History


  • The Historical Roots of Chinese Catholic Underground Forces


The Pope had a privileged position over secular rulers of the Western and Central Europe during the Medieval period. This privilege was not only a religious power but also a political authority. In 1075, Pope Gregory VII issued the Dictatus Papae in which 27 statement of powers were arrogated to the Pope, proclaiming that “He alone can depose or reinstate bishops”, “For him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry”, “It may be permitted to him to depose emperors.”, “He may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.”, “By his command and consent, it may be lawful for subordinates to bring accusations.”, etc. At the beginning of the 14th century, Pope Clement V established the first Archdiocese in China and appointed an Italian as Archbishop, but the missionary work was later interrupted by the death of the archbishop. At the beginning of 1576, the Diocese of Macau led by a Portuguese bishop was established on Chinese territory without the permission of the Ming Dynasty. Since then until the founding of the PRC, the Holy See had been defying China’s sovereignty and abusing power on Chinese territory.


In the 17th century, Western missionaries, represented by the Italian Matteo Ricci, were once welcomed by Chinese because of their respect for Chinese cultural traditions as well as possession of advanced scientific and technological knowledges. However, the Pope’s interference in China’s internal affairs resulted by the “Chinese Rites controversy” among missionaries, together with the subsequent vigilance of the Qing Dynasty on “foreign aggression”, made the Catholic missions in China banned for 120 years. In fact, the ban was not effectively implemented due to the arrogance of the Qing emperor. On the one hand, foreigners serving in the imperial court did not stop preaching to emperors, bureaucrats and civilians. On the other hand, foreign missionaries based in Macau continued to sneak into the mainland, not only personally recruiting the believers but also cultivating Chinese to serve as missionaries. The number of Chinese Catholics has been slowly increasing while the missionary system established under the Pope’s order has continued to develop.


  • The Struggle against the Underground Forces of Catholicism in Hebei Province before and after the Founding of the PRC


The unequal treaties as a result of two Opium Wars legalized the status of Chinese and foreign Catholic missionaries. After the Revolution of 1911, the Catholic Church became attached to imperialism and the comprador bourgeoisie under the command of the Holy See. In general, it was opposed to the fundamental interests of all Chinese people. When the people themselves grasped the political power and decided to choose a socialist future, the integrated Chinese Catholic Church began to divide. Most clergies and believers supported the Communist Party and the People’s Governments while a few others opposed them under the guidance of the Holy See. Thus, the former naturally became “the People” with legal status and the latter became “the Enemy” of the people’s democratic dictatorship. They emerged as the early “Catholic underground forces” when their personal freedom was not deprived. The situation in Hebei Province before and after the founding of the PRC is a typical case. On July 27, 1955, Luo Ruiqing, former Minister of Public Security, said at the Second Session of the 1st National People’s Congress (NPC): “Lurking in religious groups and wearing cloaks of religious activities, the counter-revolutionaries are implementing conspiracy to develop secret anti-revolutionary organizations. In May 1953 and March 1954, we cracked down on two of those secret organizations formed to carry out insurrections in the name of Catholic Church in Xianxian and Yongnian of Hebei Province. More than 100 holes, dark rooms and cavity walls used for meetings were unearthed, and the largest ground hole could accommodate more than 100 people.”


The foremost cause of this situation was the direct participation of some Chinese and foreign missionaries in the counter-revolutionary activities in order to subvert the new regime of the People. In addition, Catholic Reform Committee born in the Korean War — originally called the Reform Committee or the Reform Movement Promotion Association and later renamed the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) — was strongly penalized by the anti-communist Holy See due to consistent adherence of the committee to the Communist Party of China (CPC). During this period, the Central Committee of the CPC led a mass movement to expose and criticize the crimes of foreign-controlled Catholic Church and deported most foreign missionaries. In this context, the attitude towards the Catholic Reform Committee determined whether a believer, especially a clergy, was a revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary. However, the results of the policy implementation were slightly different in local areas because relevant departments of Hebei Province had various understanding of the CPC Central Committee spirit. Wang Zizhen 王子真, Vicar General of the Yongnian 永年 Diocese, together with other clergies, followed the instructions of the Holy See to do missionary work in a “secret” manner, which impeded the establishment of a reform committee in this area. Zhang Siqian 张思谦, Acting Bishop of the Xianxian 献县Diocese, instigated lots of priests to go underground and punished reform activists through religious power, destroying the reform committee in this diocese. Zhang Kexing 张可兴, who replaced a foreign missionary as the Bishop of the Xiwanzi 西湾子Diocese, refused to cooperate with the Catholic Reform Committee.


The Religious Work Plan of Hebei Province in 1953 drafted by the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the Hebei Province on January 30, 1953, had following estimates on the situation of the Catholic Church at that time:


“According to the 1948 church statistics, there are more than 750,000 Catholics in Hebei Province. According to our incomplete materials of special registration, there are more than 640,000 Catholics(not including over 100,000 Catholics of the branches of Linqing 临清 Diocese in Hebei and the part of former Chahar Province察省 merged into Hebei). More than 190,000 people carry out public religious activities while people conducting secret activities cannot be counted.”


“According to the church statistics, there are 683 priests in Hebei Province (including the Chahar part). The number counted by our department is 210, and other 40 secret priests have been identified (The actual number is larger).


It can be seen that clergies and believers controlled by the Catholic underground forces at that time respectively accounted for more than two-thirds of their total numbers. This situation did not change significantly until 1955.


The Plan pointed out: “Our slogan is ‘anti-imperialist, love the country, and love the religion”, and our policy is ‘freedom of religious belief’, to unite the mass of religious believers and clegies under the banner of patriotism to fight resolutely against our common enemy— running dogs of imperialism, spies, and saboteurs. Political issues and religious issues should be completely separated: freedom of religious belief should be protected while politics must be taken seriously.”


In terms of specific measures, the Plan emphasized: “Seize every opportunity to widely publicize our ‘freedom of religious belief’ policy among believers and clergies and give actual protection on religious activities without interference or discrimination, whether in church or in at home, in order to get them closer to us.”


The Plan also pointed out: “There are errors and shortcomings when dealing with religious issues in Hebei Province: 1) Most village cadres and even several county-level cadres cannot distinguish between the religion and Hui Dao Men 会道门 (superstitious sects and secret societies), treat them equally, and ban them together. They confiscate sacred books and restrict religious activities through compulsory administrative measures. 2) Party, government, military and civilian organizations generally occupy the mission properties without formalities and costs since they are considered imperialist properties. These organizations also deny the property rights before the completion of the legal procedures, use it casually and carelessly, and even make unauthorized changes or purchases. 3) Governments adopt administrative restrictions as in the past land reform, restricting religious activities and controlling clergies (in Boye 博野, Ningjin 宁津, northern area of former Chahar Province 察北地区, etc.). Viewing Catholicism as evil, those organizations do not win the support of most clergies, lack religious solidarity education, and even discriminate against believers.”


Facts show that these errors and shortcomings have not been completely corrected and continue to exist in different forms for the next 40 years, particularly between the mid-1960s and the end of the 1970s.


In the early 1950s, the Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province carried out illegal activities under the direct command of the Holy See.


On March 8, 1948, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical that in Chinese regions under communist rule, Catholic priests may temporarily refrain from church rules except celibacy and believers may carry out sacraments secretly. On November 30, 1950, Catholics in Guangyuan 广元County of Sichuan issued the Declaration of Self-reliance Reform Movement, announcing “resolutely cut off relations with the imperialists in all aspects, eliminate the thoughts of pro-American, fear of American, and philo-American, and independently establish Three-Self churches (self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation).” This movement soon received positive responses from the Chinese Catholic community. However, Li Peili 黎培里, Papal Legate to China, opposed it by issuing a pastoral letter (Please see the Lord) to all Chinese bishops and priests on November 18 in Nanjing南京. On January 13, 1951, the Tianjin Declaration on Catholic Self-reliance Reform was published. On February 21, Li Peili secretly issued the Statement of All Chinese Catholic Bishops, which was drafted by Wen Guibin 文贵宾, French bishop of Tianjin 天津Diocese. The statement claimed that “When a Catholic is willing to leave the Pope due to his environment, he becomes separated from the Jesus and the Church. The so-called ‘Catholicism of a certain country’ is an apostasy, not a true Catholicism with ‘one’ and ‘catholic’ attributes.” On March 31, Li Peili issued another pastoral letter Enemy’s Conspiracy to all bishops to denounce the Three-self Patriotic Movement. On January 18, 1952, Pope Pius XII issued Cupimus imprimis – The Catholic Church in China. On September 8, Li Peili was deported from Nanjing. In the same year, the missionaries of Zhengding 正定Diocese wrote after the establishment of the Catholic Reform Promotion Association in Shijiazhuang 石家庄City: “The association is without any doubt an apostate organization.” and “Reform is schism. The way away from the Pope leads to death. To live in the Pope’s church requires resolute opposition to reform.”


On December 8, 1953, Pope Pius XII ordered a Marian year for 1954 in the Encyclical Fulgens corona, encouraging Chinese clergies to be “her Divine Son” and “combat the most brutal CPC regime”. 12 of the 15 dioceses in Hebei Province implemented plans for “collective pilgrimage” after receiving the Encyclical. More statues and pavilions were established in Baoding 保定Diocese while Xiguan 西关Chapel was designated “the Lady Chapel”, Saturday as “the Day of Worship”. In Yongnian Diocese, “pilgrimage” began in January 1954. The Altar of Our Lady and sacred mountains were built in the Catholic church in Shijiazhuang City, where more than 100 members of the church came there for “pilgrimage” On Saturdays. The rumor that “Our Lady’s tears cure the disease” emerged in Yincun 殷村, Yuanshi County元氏县 and that of Marian apparitions also appeared in Dioceses of Yongnian, Xiwanzi, Anguo 安国, and Zhaoxian 赵县. Dioceses of Baoding, Yongping 永平, and Xiwanzi announced “the Manual of Indulgences of the Marian year” and carried out activities of spiritual retreats. Song Liande 宋连德, Acting Bishop of Xinwanzi Diocese, called on believers: “Whatever the name of the new trick is, it is a disguised reform. We must uphold the faith.” Obviously, such large-scale “pilgrimages” under the special background of that time were for Catholic underground forces to openly oppose the mass movement of “anti-imperialism, love the country, and love the religion”, in accordance with the order of the Holy See.


Therefore, the conference on religious work held in Hebei Province in December 1953 decided: “To control the core members of the Catholic Church and mobilize the masses to make ‘pilgrimage’ of the Marian year a normal religious activity; to exert pressure on it and reduce its scale after discovering a pilgrimage; to restrict it into the church and prevent it from expanding and affecting production and security…. The pilgrimage outside the church shall be regarded as illegal and resolutely stopped.” Later with the crackdown on secret missions and other “counter-revolutionary” cases led by the Vicar General Wang Zizhen, the organized Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province got devastated.


  • The CPCA and its Containment of the Catholic Underground Forces


In February 1954, in terms of Catholicism, the Central Committee of the CPC instructed all localities to rename “Catholic Reform Promotion Association” to “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association”, allowed recognition of the Pope, but asked the Pope to recognize the Patriotic Association. This meant the policy adjustment of the central government toward the Holy See. According to the instructions of the Central Committee and the local work practices, relevant departments of Hebei Province concluded that the “A general Catholic clergy must vacillate between the People’s regime and theocracy, changing from total defiance to double-dealing and from double-dealers who are loyal to the Vatican to those who are loyal to the government. This is the general law of the change of a clergy’s mind during conciliation.” It should be acknowledged that this law is fully applicable to the current work to convert most Catholic underground clergies and unify legitimate clergies who tend to fully obey the Holy See in Hebei Province after 40 years. In September 1954, the first Constitution of the PRC was promulgated, which protected freedom of religious belief as one of the basic rights of citizens. On October 7, Pope Pius XII issued the Encyclical Ad Sinarum Gentem: the Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries and other Members of the Clergy and People of China in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See to blame Catholic Three-Self Patriotic Movement in China. On June 19, 1955, Li Junwu 李君武, deputy to Beijing Municipal People’s Congress and Vicar General of Beijing Diocese, sent a letter to Tian Fengting 田凤廷, deputy to Hebei Provincial People’s Congress and Vicar General of Xianxian Diocese. Li asked Tian to propose a research plan to the religious department of Hebei Province on how to better make cadres of all localities correctly implement the religious policy. He also suggested that Tian should apply to the relevant departments for permission to establish a “Hebei Provincial Church Office” in the provincial capital, to deal with all issues related to the Catholic Church. Despite having no effect, those suggestions reflected the desire of church members to normalize religious activities in accordance with the canon law. In July 1956, 38 church members (including 5 from Hebei Province) launched the Preparatory Committee for the CPCA. Meanwhile, some others in several dioceses prepared to elect bishops according to the canon law in order to restore normal religious activities. Faced with this situation, Zhao Zhensheng 赵振声, Bishop of Xianxian Diocese and former Acting Bishop of Beijing Archdiocese (as well as one of the initiators of the CPCA), worried that those bishops-elect might not comply with the Holy See. Therefore, in April 1957, he wrote a joint letter with Li Benliang 李本良, bishop of Linqing 临清Diocese to ask the Pope for the privilege to consecrate bishops with informal recognition by Rome in all dioceses across China. The Holy See granted it to Zhao a few years later.


On July 27, 1957, the first meeting of the representatives of Chinese Catholic Church issued Protest of the Holy See’s Denial of Zhang Shilang 张士琅as the Legitimate Acting Bishop of the Shanghai Diocese and passed a resolution: “For the benefit of our motherland and for the future of our church, the Chinese Catholics shall completely change the colonial and semi-colonial state which imperialism brought to us in Old China. We must manage religious affairs independently at the will of Chinese church members, maintain a pure religious relationship with the Holy See without violating interest, independence, and dignity of our motherland, and obey the Pope when the Catholic teachings and canon law are credible and feasible. We must completely cut off the political and economic relationship with Vatican, and resolutely oppose Vatican’s conspiracies to interfere in our internal affairs through religious affairs, violate our sovereignty, and sabotage our anti-imperialist patriotic movement (also known as the Three-self Patriotic Movement).” Besides, Zhao Zhensheng and other bishops were severely criticized and forced to admit mistakes of insisting Papal supremacy over the ordainment of bishops and opposing the self-managed church. On August 2, China Catholic Patriotic Association for Church Members (renamed “China Catholic Patriotic Association” in 1962) was established in Beijing. Since then, the Chinese Catholic community has started the debate on “independent and self-managed church”. Zhao Zhensheng was elected vice-chairman of the association. On December 14, 1957, Hebei Provincial Catholic Association for Church Members was established in Baoding. On April 20, 1958, the Catholic Dioceses of Yongnian, Xuanhua 宣化, Xiwanzi and Yongping of Hebei Province elected their bishops and held celebrations the next day. One of the slogans was “to resolutely cut off all links with Vatican”. At the second enlarged meeting of the Standing Committee of the Hebei Provincial Patriotic Association for Church Members, participants focused on the issue of Sino-Vatican relationship. Zhao Zhensheng, chairman of the association at that time, said in his closing remarks: “During the discussion, it is thought that the relationship between the Chinese Catholic Church and Vatican was a matter of two fundamentally contrasting political positions.” and “We should cut off relationships with Vatican not only in politics and economy, but also in personnel and religious affairs. We should conscientiously implement the principle of ‘independent and self-managed church’ and ‘self-election and self-ordainment’.” On June 29, Pope Pius XII issued Ad Apostolorum Principis: Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Communism and the Church in China, to reaffirm Papal supremacy over the ordainment of bishops, the automatic excommunication incurred by the illegitimate consecrator and the illegitimacy of the Patriotic Association: “…bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff…”, “Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo modo (in a most special way ) to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred.”, “For under an appearance of patriotism, which in reality is just a fraud, this association aims primarily at making Catholics gradually embrace the tenets of atheistic materialism, by which God Himself is denied and religious principles are rejected.” The Encyclical was later mailed to Zhao Zhensheng, to whom Pope Pius XII said: “The bishops consecrated on your own, though I cannot say that they are not true bishops, have no authority to manage dioceses, because they are not ordained by me.” In 1959, a group of senior Catholics including the Prefect of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples came to a meeting in Hong Kong. They thought that those self-ordained bishops were effective but illegitimate, and China’s Catholicism was not an apostasy. On November 26, 1962, Pope John XXIII ceased to use the term “apostasy” to describe the situation of the Catholic Church in China. Thus, from August 1957 to August 1966, the Catholic Church in Hebei Province was roughly unified into the Patriotic Association, making the comeback of underground forces impossible. On June 29, 1962, Zhao Zhensheng secretly consecrated Wang Junde 王峻德, Vicar General of Xianxian Diocese, as the bishop— who was elected through a democratic procedure— according to the authorization of the Pope. However, he did not announce it publicly due to political situation. Clergies’ engagement in underground activities under the direct or indirect instructions of the Holy See become individual rather than group behaviors. It is evident that besides the social and political environment at that time, the establishment of the Catholic Patriotic Association at national and local levels did curb the Catholic underground forces.


  • Complete transference of Catholic activities to underground and Fan Xueyan 范学淹’s Comeback


During the Socialist Education Movement (also known as Four Cleanups Movement) in 1965, Wang Qiwei, member of the Standing Committee of the Hebei Provincial Political Consultative Conference, Secretary-General of the Hebei Provincial Catholic Patriotic Association, and Bishop of Baoding Diocese self-elected and self-ordained in July 1958 (he was appointed as Second Vicar General soon after Fan Xueyan was ordained Bishop), assisted the work team of the movement to mobilize the believers in Xushui 徐水County and Anjiazhuang 安家庄to leave the church. Besides, the Catholic Patriotic Associations throughout the country denounced the propaganda of the Holy See, foreign missionaries and reactionary church members. Some of the bishops, priests, lay brothers, and lay sisters who actively participated in activities of CPCA got married. After 7 years of participation of all clergies in Xianxian Diocese in people’s commune system in the form of production team, Zhao Zhensheng announced the dissolution of the Catholic Sisters Network of Xianxian Diocese based on Tianjin Diocese experience. On October 10, 1965, a survey report by the competent department on religious affairs in Cixian 磁县 County stated that “the Five Properties of Religion” were “class, reactionary, backward, deceptive, and harmful”, which fundamentally denied the correct view of the CPC Central Committee before 1963— “long-term, mass, national, international and complex”.


During the Cultural Revolution, the CPCA at various levels in Hebei Province were disintegrated. Members of the association were once more seriously affected than other clergies and believers. All dioceses, monasteries, and convents were disbanded. Some nuns were forced to marry. However, administrative measures did not eliminate Catholicism. Believers and clergies who were repatriated to their native places chanted and prayed secretly at home. Some of them believed that “persecutions against the church” had arrived, even firming their beliefs. Some of the former members of the association regretted their wrong choices. Massive emergencies— such as “Living Virgin Mary”, “Living Jesus”, “Living Saintesses”, and “Living Saints”— continued appearing in Catholic-inhabited areas. The Catholic activities became completely underground and turned into a great hidden danger affecting the stability and unity of Hebei Province.


In July 1970, Fan Xueyan was released from labor camp and returned to his native place, Xiaowangting 小望亭Village in Qingyuan 清苑County. As the only bishop in the province who was directly ordained by the Pope and enjoyed personal freedom, Fan immediately began to exercise the bishop’s authority secretly. In May 1977, Fan convened 9 people including Wang Tai 王泰, a church member in Tianshui 天水City, Gansu Province, and Zhang Guoyan 张国彦, a church member in Baoding City, Hebei Province, to draft “Guiding Principles of Roman Catholic Church” at Zhang’s home, and sent it across the country. Besides, Wang Tai was ordained as a priest (Wang lived a monastic life before).


  • The Resurgence of the Catholic Underground Forces


On April 5, 1978, the Central Committee of the CPC authorized the Central United Front Work Department and the Ministry of Public Security to remove “the hat of rightist”. Taking this as a starting point, the central government began to bring order out of chaos in terms of religion, adjusting religious policies          on the one hand and redressing unjust, false and wrong cases in religious circles on the other hand. A group of Catholic clergies and believers who were serving prison sentences or were re-educated through labor or forced to work under public surveillance regained their personal freedom. On June 27 of the same year, the Holy See took the opportunity to issue an order— Sacra Congregatio Pro Gentium Evangelizatione Seu De Propaganda Fide Facultates Et Privilegia Sacerdotibus Fidelibusque in Territorio Sinarum Degentibus Concessa His Perdurantibus Circumstantiis. There are two main points of the order: to delegate the majority of the bishop’s authority on daily religious affairs to priests, simplify many religious rituals, and relax part of the canon laws; to allow the bishop to ordain a priest who might not “have enough formal theological training” but must “be loyal to the Pope and willing to be single”, and interdict the ordainment of a bishop. It was a mobilization order issued to the priests and the bishops who not only insisted on opposing “independent and self-managed church” but also enjoyed personal freedom to ask them to re-control the church. Besides, it was a basic criterion for Catholics in mainland China to judge whether a clergy was qualified or not. Moreover, it was the total repudiation of Catholic anti-imperialist patriotic movement in the 1950s, which was characterized by cutting off all links with the Holy See and allowing clergies to marry. The order chimed in with the deep-rooted ideas of most believers. However, relevant departments did not attach enough importance to the evil intentions of the order. It was not until June 20, 1979, when the Hebei Provincial Committee of CPC issued the Opinions on Comprehensively Implementating the Party’s Religious Policies and Doing a Good Job in Religious Work, that the relevant departments realized the problem. They authorized the opening of 6 Catholic churches at the end of the year but still lacked mature and effective management plans after opening those churches. On May 22, 1980, the Third Session of the CPCA was held in Beijing, followed immediately by the First National Congress of Catholic Representatives. Three bishops of Hebei Province, Wang Qiwei 王其威, Chang Shouqi 常守彝and Pan Shaoqing潘少卿, attended the meeting and were elected into the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), an organization established in this meeting. In October, a provincial congress of Catholic representatives was held to re-establish the Hebei Provincial Patriotic Catholic Association and establish the Hebei Provincial Administrative Commission of the Chinese Catholic Church. Wang Qiwei was appointed Vice Chairman (Deputy Director) and Secretary General of those two organizations. At the end of 1981, Liu Jinghe 刘景和 and Fan Wenxing 范文兴were separately self-elected and self-ordained as bishops in Tangshan 唐山Diocese and Hengshui 衡水Diocese. In 1982, Bishop Liu Dinghan 刘定汉was self-elected and self-ordained in Cangzhou 沧州Diocese. So far, there were only 4 legitimate bishops (the other one is Bishop Pan Shaoqing of Zhangjiakou 张家口Diocese) in the re-divided eight dioceses of Hebei, with no bishops in Baoding, Shijiazhuang, Xingtai 邢台 and Handan邯郸.


On January 20, 1980, Fan Xueyan was again released back to his native place. On January 26th, Ji Yongxian 姬永贤and Qu Jingfeng 曲警凤, former priests of Baoding Diocese (before re-division), were dispatched by Fan Xueyan to Anjiazhuang, Fentai 坟台, Chunmuyu 椿木峪, and Shizhuang 师庄villiages of Xushui County and Donglü 东闾Village of Qingyuan County, to force the priests, who participated in the CPCA but had not been arrested, to do public penance in front of numerous believers. On February 16, Fan Xueyan spent the Spring Festival in the house of Su Jingxian 苏敬贤in Donglü Village, who was released a month before Fan. On February 17, three young believers in Anjiazhuang paid a new year visit to Fan, kneeling down and saying: “Pray for the apostolic pardon!” Fan replied: “Go back and control the church!” In fact, Anjianzhuang Church was among the first batch of re-opening churches authorized by Hebei Province. However, the solemn announcement by leaders of the relevant departments, was resisted by some people in the village because they did not accept Wang Qiwei as Bishop of Baoding Diocese. Since then, a vicious trend of occupying the church by force started in Baoding District, affecting Shijiazhuang and other areas. During the period of reform and opening up, the Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province, led by Fan Xueyan, emerged and raised the vigilance of the relevant departments.


In January 1981, Fan Xueyan secretly ordained Su Zhimin 苏志民, a believer in Tiangezhuang 田各庄 in Qingyuan County, An Shuxin 安树欣, a believer in Anjiazhuang in Xushui County, and other three believers as priests. Around this time, Fan also consecrated three bishops, originally three priests in their dioceses — Jia Zhiguo 贾治国in “Zhengding Diocese”, Zhou Shanfu 周善夫in “Yixian 易县Diocese”, and Wang Tai in “Tianshui Diocese” (according to former division of dioceses rather than the official new one) — without approval from the Vatican. Besides, he delegated Jia Zhiguo to ordain Min qingchang闵庆昌, former Vicar General of “Zhengdi Diocese”, as Bishop (unimplemented due to Min’s death). When the news reached the Vatican, Pope John Paul II expressed complete agreement with Fan Xueyan and granted him his blessing and the authority to make decisions on church affairs without first receiving the Vatican approval. Later, Zhou Shanfu and Jia Zhiguo “consecrated” more than 11 “bishops” or “vicar generals” in the former dioceses of Baoding, Yixian, Anguo, Xianxian and Shunde 顺德. On November 2, 1985, Zhang Haode 张浩德, who had been released from labor camp, set up a place of worship in his own courtyard in Donglü Village, to counter the legal chapels. “Underground” bishops and priests gathered there, making it one of the main bases for underground forces to make waves, incite religious fanaticism, and challenge the People’s government. In October 1988, Xiao Liren肖立仁 instigated hundreds of believers to push down the walls of the military camp in Xingtai and forcibly occupy its warehouse for half of year in the name of reclaiming religious property. in April 1989, Pei Ronggui 裴荣贵, underground priest of Youtong 油通Village in Luancheng 栾城County, Shijiazhuang City, mobilized nearly a thousand believers to forcibly establish an altar in the village primary school for reunion and chant, causing more than 80 days of class suspension. The campaign of county public security bureau officers to disperse the believers were strongly resisted and more than 70 police officer were injured.


On April 15, 1982, Fan Xueyan was arrested for the third time and released on parole on November 17, 1987. On January 3, 1988, he gave a comprehensive explanation of the status quo of the Chinese Catholic Church to a visitor through a Q&A interview, in which he released the so-called “Thirteen Points”. It was widely circulated within the churches (not only in the part controlled by underground forces) and has still been insisted by the “underground” bishops of Hebei Province. The core content is that the act of self-electing and self-ordaining bishops definitely places the Chinese Church out of communion with the Pope. In November 1989, the underground bishops gathered secretly for a meeting in Zhangerce 张二册Village of Gaoling 高陵County, Shaanxi Province, with the consent of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Vatican chargé d’affaires to Hong Kong (and the support of “Eight-point Directive” document issued by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 1988). They planned to establish “the Bishops’ Conference in Mainland China” which “completely accepts the leadership of the Pope and maintains absolute communion with the whole Catholic Church.” The leaders who drafted the proposal were all “underground” bishops in Hebei Province.


On April 13, 1992, Fan Xueyan died of illness when placed under house arrest. Underground forces took the chance to distribute leaflets about Fan’s quotes to oppose the CPCA, expose the dead body of Fan for nine days, and gather thousands of people to protest against the government. At this moment, Chen Jianzhang 陈建章, Liu Shuhe 刘树和, Liu Tifen 刘悌芬, Shi Enxiang 师恩样, Liu Guandong 刘冠东, Li Zhenrong 李振荣, Xiao Liren 肖立仁, Jia Zhiguo 贾治国and Su Zhimin, who had been in labor camp or under detention, returned to their native place, thus strengthening the underground forces. The underground forces of the Catholic Church in Hebei Province either regrouped, or formed a new organizational system, turning from secret to open.


By the end of 1995, the total number of “underground” bishops in Hebei Province had reached 27 (including 13 late bishops), and there were more than 160 “underground” priests in former dioceses of Baoding, Yixian, Anguo, Zhengding, Xianxian, Daming 大名, Yongnian, Shunde, Zhaoxian and Xuanhua. They also controlled most churches in cities of Baoding, Zhangjiakou, Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Handan and more than 300,000 believers. Especially in Baoding, there were more than 70,000 believes of the underground church, accounting for 80% of the total number of church members in the city. There were only 10 legitimate bishops and assistant bishops in the province (including 2 late bishops) with vacancies in dioceses of Xingtai and Zhangjiakou, while there were more than 230 legitimate priests, most of whom are graduates of seminaries of Catholic Church in Hebei and other provinces.


  • Several Conclusions


In summary:


The Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province have the characteristic of historical inheritance. Such property is to resolutely oppose and resist “independent and self-managed church” and put the Papal supremacy over the nation.


The resurgence of Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province has been fueled by two main factors since the reform and opening up. First, historical inertia, especially the Cultural Revolution of which one goal was to eradicate religion in China, completely undermined the party’s policy of freedom of religious belief and thus enabled underground forces to go on the stage under the influence of hostile foreign forces when the party was bringing order out of chaos. Second and more importantly, there were mistakes in our policies. Relevant departments of the party and the government did not learn from the rich practical experience of the struggle against the Catholic underground forces before the Cultural Revolution. On one hand, the improper control and reeducation of Fan Xueyan actually “set the tiger free” and made the Catholic underground forces even more recalcitrant. On the other hand, weak support for legitimate churches was caused by overemphasis on the commonality that they both obeyed the Pope and negligence on the difference that the latter aimed at establishing “independent and self-managed church”.


The Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province had different characteristics in different historical periods. In the early 1950s, they were organized and guided directly by the Holy See to prevent believers from choosing the socialist road and undermine the socialist revolution and construction. The essence was the allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church and opposition to the CPC and the People’s government under the party’s leadership. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, it was only a few people who received the indirect guidance of the Roman Catholic Church to go against the CPCA, especially against the self-selected and self-ordained bishops. A few missionaries, secretly linked with foreign forces, did not openly oppose the socialist system but opposed the party’s leadership and the government either explicitly or implicitly. From the mid-1960s to the end of the 1970s, the underground forces saved energy and waited for opportunities under the background of nationwide “elimination of religion”. Since the end of the 1970s, namely since the reform and opening up, Catholic underground forces started again to receive the direct rather than the indirect guidance from the Holy See and stuck at nothing with the support of the Roman Catholic Church. The underground forces even relied on international anti-Communist and anti-China forces, waging well-planned and co-ordinated campaigns to compete with the legitimate church for religious power, to stir up trouble in the various seemingly legitimate names, to overthrow local governments, and to undermine the socialist modernization. They used those purposes as a bargaining chip to win the support of those international forces in order to build up the command center of the Chinese Catholic underground forces.


Chapter 2: Status Quo


Up to March 1999, there were about 600,000 Catholics, 8 legitimate bishops (including 1 retired bishop) and 2 assistant bishops (thus 10 bishops in total), 254 legal priests, 140 students in the Hebei Provincial Seminary of Catholic Church, and around 500 nuns in Hebei Povince. There were still 13 unconverted “underground” bishops and about 140 “underground” priests in the province. In the past three years, there have been many religious ceremonies which a considerable number of believers secretly invited “underground” bishops and priests to preside over, despite no large-scale activities controlled by the underground forces in Hebei. According to estimates of relevant departments, there are about 160,000 believers under the control of the underground forces.


2.1 Underground Forces still have an Organizational System and Continue to Interfere with Normal Religious Activities.


Peasants are predominant among Catholic believers in Hebei Province. Their beliefs, as a spiritual pursuit, are still at a lower level with a considerable degree of blindness and fanaticism. It is noticeably reflected in believers who are deeply influenced by the underground forces. In fact, most of the underground forces, confined by the public security organs in 1996, have returned to their native places. The believers affected by them live a religious life at home, or secretly invite “underground” bishops to preside over religious ceremonies. They refuse legitimate bishops and priests to enter their villages or enter the church where they had ceremonies. Besides, some core members of underground forces have fled to other regions rather than their native places to continue organizing activities. In particular, the organization system of so-called “Yixian diocese” (before re-division) is practically undamaged, expanding its strong influence in Shanxi, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Beijing, and cities in Hebei such as Langfang 廊坊and Shijiazhuang.


2.2 The Holy See is Intensifying the Promotion of “Ecumenism” and “Communion” among Legitimate Clergies.


After the smooth succession to the third-generation of party’s leadership at the 14th National Congress of CPC, the Holy See changed its policy toward China. Apart from insisting on not authorizing the BCCCC and withdrawing the special privilege granted to “underground” bishops to ordain a bishop by themselves in 1990 (actually it is not working), the Holy See shifted its focus onto absorbing legitimate bishops. Two thirds of the legitimate bishops and assistant bishops in Hebei Province have obtained a decree of approval from the Holy See after their own applications. Moreover, the Holy See embraced the conversion of “underground” bishops into legitimate bishops. On December 3, 1996, the speech of John Paul II to the delegate of “the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference of Taiwan” reflected that the Holy See shifted the attack on the system to that on the idea when opposing the CPCA. “Even today all Chinese Catholics are called to remain faithful, not yielding to conceptions of a Church that do not correspond to the will of the Lord Jesus, the Catholic faith, and the sentiment and convictions of the great majority of Catholics Chinese.”, “I know that the Church in the People’s Republic of China, wants to be truly Catholic, despite the suffering and the peculiarity of its historical journey. It will therefore have to remain united to Christ, to the Successor of Peter and to the whole universal Church also and especially through the ministry of the Bishops, in communion with the Apostolic See.”, “The Bishop is called to carry out his pastoral ministry in hierarchical communion.” He also reclaims four marks of the church — “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” and “also waits to be able to see fully expressed the testimony of the faith of Chinese Catholics and their contribution to the preaching and witness of the Gospel”. The Pope “looks with trust and sympathy towards China and towards the Church that is in China”. The speech was a reassurance for the legitimate bishops who have been recognized by the Holy See, as well as an implicit request for them to abandon the tradition of “independent and self-managed church” which began in the 1950s. The Xin De 信德newspaper sponsored by Hebei Provincial Administrative Commission of the Chinese Catholic Church reprinted the speech in full text to absorb believers obedient to underground forces by recognizing Papal supremacy in on behalf of the CAPC. However, the result was imaginably negative. The Holy See not only requires believers in mainland China “not to deny the bishops who vacillate between the church and government” and “to compromise on government’s demarcation of dioceses”, but also requires core members of underground forces to “use wise judgements to respect the legitimate bishops that have been recognized by the Holy See.”


2.3 The Hostile Foreign Forces are still Supporting the Underground Forces and Attacking the Legal Church by Various Means


In 1996, Su Zhimin, former bishop of Baoding diocese ordained by the Holy See, asked Li Daoyu 李道豫, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., to deliver his letter to the NPC with the help of Gong Pinmei 龚品梅, former Bishop of Shanghai Diocese (Both bishops were strongly criticized by the People’s government and the CPCA). He accused the in Hebei Province of “violating the Constitution” and “causing lots of violations of civil rights” when “stopping illegitimacy”. In the beginning of July, a foreign journalist illegally interviewed the “underground” president of Xiaowangting Village in Qingyuan County twice. On April 12 and May 13, 1998, when the illegal gatherings of believers in some villages in Baoding City were stopped by the government, some people shouted out “freedom and human rights”, claiming that “The United States would not sit by had things got worse, and the Voice of America will report it the next day.” The support of hostile foreign forces for underground forces is mainly embodied in provision of funds for activities and buildings, and selection of the successors of their core members. With the Vatican intensifying “ecumenism” and “communion” among legitimate clergies, Su Zhimin once claimed “The CPCA obeys the government management so that the government allows them to exist; we also obey the government management so that the government should allow us to exist. Let’s take it slow and gradually realize ‘ecumenism’ and ‘communion’.”


2.4 The Hebei Provincial Seminary of Catholic Church Strengthen Underground Forces through Contributing to their Reserve Forces


Hostile foreign forces have expressed concern over the restoration of the Catholic theological education system in mainland China, believing that the new generation of clergies will lean on the government. However, there is no room for optimism when looking back on the past two decades. Nearly all students in the Hebei Provincial Seminary of Catholic Church were born in families where members have been Catholics for generations. Thus, their hatred towards the Boxer Rebellion and “persecutions against the church” during the Cultural Revolution becomes unavoidable due to the subtle influence of their families. To a certain extent, their felling of hatred toward the CPCA is even stronger than that of the old clergies who are still alive. On one hand, the latter personally suffered from the control by foreign missionaries and witnessed the dramatic changes of the new China compared to the old China, while the former encountered much more friendly foreigners and heard of better life experiences abroad than their domestic predecessors through the emigrants’ description. On the other hand, most believers “treat the participation in the CPCA as an apostasy” and are thus unwilling to accept the priests representing the CPCA. The graduates who become legitimate priests often need strong support of local competent departments to get a foothold among believes. They also blame it on the CPCA. The seminary has offered almost no courses on modern and contemporary Chinese history for more than a decade. Besides, the education of current political affairs makes up a much lower proportion than that of public higher education institutions. As a result, students lack civic awareness and disregard Article 36 of the Constitution that “Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” At the 10th anniversary celebration of the seminary, when the secretary of the Hebei Provincial Patriotic Association (in office in the 1950s and 1960s) was giving a speech on the history of the Catholic anti-imperialist patriotic movement in Hebei Province, most students left the venue without permission. After the celebration, they reconvened to protest against the speech and besiege the secretary. In 1996, four deacons who graduated from the seminary refused the ordination of priests by Bishop Pan Deshi 潘德世 and insisted on returning to Shanxi Province, their native place, to accept the ordination of a local legitimate bishop who was originally “underground”. A priest in Langfang City, also a graduate of this seminary, publicly claimed to support the Holy See’s “ecumenism” and “communion”, which aimed at “annexing” the CAPC, and wrote letters to foreign churches, reporting missionary situation and asking for funding. With the inevitable death of the old bishops who held high the banner of the Patriotic Association, the new generation of clergies in Hebei Province, cultivated by various seminaries of Catholic Church, may abandon the banner under the strong psychological stress of “ecumenism” and “communion” imposed by the Roman Catholic Church.


2.5 The Party Organization Lacks Combat Effectiveness in Catholic-inhabited Villages


Historically speaking, the party organization in hundreds of Catholic-inhabited villages in Hebei Province has not been solid enough. Since the reform and opening up, the party has made major adjustments to the political and economic systems of the rural areas, liberating long-oppressed rural productive forces. However, the construction of primary party organizations in rural areas remains weak for many years. In Hebei Province, the party organizations are either undisciplined or weak in villages which are controlled by underground forces and exclude legal bishops and priests. For instance, 60 people simultaneously serve as Communist, village cadre, and Catholic. Some of them are even core members of the Catholic underground forces in 81 Catholic-inhabited villages of Baoding. Those people seemingly rely on the government but actually defect to the Catholic underground forces, making the village government a “puppet regime” of the latter. Besides, most grassroot cadres have an extreme low ability to understand and implement the policies and some of them still cannot distinguish between legitimate clergies and underground forces by far, for lack of ideological and political education for cadres at all levels over the years.


Chapter 3: Suggestions


3.1  Lean on the Legitimate Bishops and Give Full Play to their Special Role


The fundamental task of the current Catholic work in China is to resolutely implement Article 36 of the Constitution, which not only guarantees the freedom of religious belief of the masses whether they are Catholics or not, but also guides the religious citizens to adhere to the idea of “independent and self-managed church”. The current legitimate bishops (including assistant bishops) in Hebei Province are elected with consolidate public support through democratic procedures and have been long-inspected by relevant departments. Their commonality is to obey the party’s leadership, support the socialist system, possess rich religious knowledge, hold a strong faith, have a considerable understanding of dialectical materialism and the history of social development, and accept the government’s management of religious affairs by law. Almost all of them take office at a certain level of the leading organs of the People’s Congress or the Chinese’s People’s Political Consultative Conference. Therefore, they have plenty of contacts with leading cadres of the party and governments at all levels, with the opportunities to obtain high-level information. Hostile foreign forces dare not look down on them in the Roman Catholic Church due to their lofty status in the country’s political life. The illegal activities of underground forces also endanger the religious authority of the legitimate bishops in lay people’s minds— that is, underground forces shake the foundations of the secular status of legitimate bishops. Those activities will inevitably result in their instinctive resistance. Therefore, they are our reliable allies to fight against illegal activities of underground forces. Regrettably, the relevant departments did not give full play to the special role of legitimate bishops and many senior legitimate priests, and even regarded them as “dissident” to some extent during the process of “stopping illegitimacy”. There is no way except maximization of their leading function, in order to consolidate the achievements in countering underground forces and thoroughly dismantle them, so that the majority of believers can truly embark on the path to establish “independent and self-managed church”. “Self-election and self-ordainment” is the embodiment of “independent” while “self-managed church” is the purpose or the meaning of “self-election and self-ordainment”. Or “self-election and self-ordainment” is the necessary and effective means, as well as the great achievement to adapt Catholicism into socialism when establishing “self-managed church”.


Besides, there are some problems among the legitimate bishops of Hebei Province. One is their “two-facedness” — oscillating between the state power and theocracy and between the Holy See and the Chinese government— and the other one is ageing population. The first problem can be solved with our proper work since they will not go so far as to change their position on “independent and self-managed church” based on their over 40 years of experience in both legitimate church and “underground” church. However, the second problem cannot be ignored, otherwise it will make “independent and self-managed church” a mere scrap of letter in Hebei Province. Since the reform and opening up, a group of legitimate clergies with solid political positions, religious knowledge, and religious devotion, have standed out from the graduates of various seminaries. Some of them have also participated in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at various levels. They are suitable candidates for the legitimate bishops in the next century. However, whether believers accept them as bishops remains a problem and the crux of it is the traditional concept that the Pope has the absolute power to ordain a bishop. The key is to dispel worries of the legitimate bishops about their open recognition of Papal supremacy, thus increasing their prestige among believers in a way that they think is appropriate and enhancing their positive self-feeling when facing the Holy See. Based on those measures, we should then mobilize the legitimate bishops to accelerate the pace of training their replacements.


3.2 Appropriately Adjust the Strategy and Tactics of Struggle toward the Second Generation of Representatives of Underground Forces


Since the reform and opening up, the work strategy of the relevant departments toward the second generation of representatives of the Catholic underground forces in Hebei Province has been monitoring them on the one hand and converting them to be legitimate bishops on the other hand. There is believed to be some inevitable side effects of the strategy since some of them will never recognize the established policy (or the basic national policy) of “independent and self-managed church”. First, it shakes the belief of Catholic clergies and believers in Article 36 of the Constitution, thus weakening the cohesion within the CPCA and the BCCCCC. Second, it blurs the nature of the long-term struggle to comprehensively manage and control underground forces and downplays such a significant political problem to an ideological problem within the Catholic Church. Third, it adds to the bargaining power of the Pope and legitimizes the control of the Pope over our own religious affairs when negotiating the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the PRC. Last, it fuels the division within the Catholic Church in our country.


History shows that the Holy See has never made concessions on its consistent position of governing our Catholic affairs and none of the main representatives of Hebei Catholic underground forces can accept the concept of “independent and self-maintained church” in various periods. The specific measures to deal with these people before the “Cultural Revolution”— though marked with “leftism”— have a correct guiding strategy which is to completely cut off their contact with lay people and other clergies (All of them except Fan Xueyan were sentenced to life imprisonment), that is, to cut off the political connection between the Hebei Catholic Church and the Holy See. At that time, heavy sentence imposed on a few people for the crime of counterrevolution was logical and conformed to laws and policies. Since the 1980s, the situation has undergone the following major changes. First, the Pope is ready to recognize the PRC, while affirming the rationality of the socialist system. Second, China’s Criminal Law has abolished the crime of counterrevolution. Last, “rule by law” has been included in the amended Constitution during the Second Session of the Ninth NPC. However, the current religious law system is still not perfect. Although the Constitution has Article 36 that “Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination”, there is no substantial law and regulation to punish underground forces for violating the Constitution, except the No.3 document issued by the Central Office of CPC in 1989. The document encourages the conversion of “underground” bishops and priests through education but does not abandon other methods. Education method can be tried on the ringleaders rather than other second-generation representatives of the underground forces since the long-lasting education cannot deal with the urgent situation. The latter have more energy to participate in underground activities and they are still illegally ordaining bishops and priests.


3.3 Put the Principle of “Rule by Law” into Practice in the Catholic-inhabited Villages that are Seriously Affected by Underground Forces


The implementation of the religious policy in Hebei Province, together with the comprehensive treatment of the illegal activities conducted in the name of the Catholic Church, has been going on for 20 years. The changing international environment also influenced the process of the policy implementation. some Catholic-inhabited villages where residents did not accept legitimate bishops and conducted illegal activities —none of them are poor villages—receive either preferential economic policies given by governments at all levels, or support from the national Catholic community to build the “Guangqi” 光启Hope Primary School. These are all the benefits obtained under the banner of “Serve the People”. There is no doubt with such strategies if they can be shared to more villages—whether Catholic-inhabited or not—as experimental experience, or economic development is viewed as the starting point and the foothold of “stopping illegitimacy” work within a certain period of time. However, there is another paradox: the faith in religion will gradually fade away when we guide those believes to live better lives. This argument confuses the party’s basic line during the primary stage of socialism with the principle to which the party needs to long-adhere on the ideological front.


In fact, the underground forces do not oppose the economic development or the poverty alleviation among believers since their better lives satisfy the strong desire of the representatives of the underground forces for wealth and power. However, the ingrained idea of “Papal supremacy” among believers is believed to be the ideological root of the “underground” problem. The radical movement to “eliminate the religion” in the 1960s failed to remove this idea, let alone the short-term moderate measures through administration, economy, or education in the current society where the People’s government fully guarantees the freedom of citizens’ religious beliefs by law. Leaders of the relevant departments of the central government have pointed out that a considerable part of religious development is independent on the mind’s perception at this stage and it will not be terrible if the religion can be guided in accordance with the socialist society. If the development of Han Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity is marked by the increase in the number of believers, then the development of Catholicism and Islam is marked by the supremacy of Papal and Allah. The basic principle of our patriotic education for religious believers is to vigorously promote “love the country and love the religion”. For Catholicism, the basic requirement of “love the religion” is to have firm faith in the four marks of the Church— “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”— which is just another expression of “Papal supremacy”. Therefore, after the Central Committee of CPC decided to allow Catholics to pray for the Pope in March 1989, leaders of the competent authorities of the central government have publicly announced to the international community that the Chinese government fully respects the idea of “Papal supremacy” among Chinese Catholics. The three remarks made by former President Jiang Zemin on religious work focused on “actively guide the adaption of religion to socialist society”. Thus, “decrease the believers’ religious consciousness” ceases to be the main goal of the party’s religious work. Managing religious affairs by law and respecting the idea of “Papal supremacy” among believers become a pair of contradictory opposites in current religious work, especially when dealing with Catholic work. On one hand, the struggle of opposites is reflected in the conflict between Article 36 of the Constitution that “Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” and the idea of “Papal supremacy” in religious affairs, especially when it comes to the ordainment of bishops. On the other hand, the unity of opposites is manifested in the fact that the party’s policy of freedom of religious belief inherently contains both sides of the opposites. The key to solve the problem is to resolve the above conflict and fully implement the party’s policy of freedom of religious belief. The relevant departments should work harder to regulate “love the religion” by law. On the one hand, it is necessary to determine the specific content of local legal education according to different characteristics of Catholic-inhabited villages. For example, they should preach Article 36 pf the Constitution to those believers who only love the Pope rather than the country, advocate Law on Assemblies, Processions, and Demonstrations, Criminal Law, and Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security when targeting large-scale activities such as pilgrimages, and propagandize Compulsory Education Law and Minors Protection Law to primary and secondary school students whose studies are influenced by religious activities. On the other hand, in order to adapt to new situations, it is necessary to further revise the local laws and regulations that have been promulgated and implemented and simultaneously enact detailed rules for the implementation of relevant national laws and regulations, so that the subjective administrative principles of “protecting legitimacy, stopping illegitimacy, and cracking down on criminals” can be implemented on the objective basis of “the existence of law”.


During the primary stage of socialism, the series of documents issued by the central government on religious affairs have given clear instructions on how to strengthen the party’s leadership in Catholic-inhabited areas and how to concentrate the wills of all people on the common goal of building a great modern socialist country. The basic point is to put the issue of belief on the back burner, neither conducting debates between theism and atheism among the religious people, nor treating the presence and absence of religious consciousness as a sign to distinguish between progress and backwardness. The political issue is the political issue (essentially an issue on political positions) while the religious issue remains a religious issue (essentially an issue on ideology). Those two are sometimes inevitably intercepted but there is always only one dominant issue in specific circumstances. Thus, it becomes critical to determine the essence of an event. According to the No.3 document issued by the Central Office of CPC in 1989, the “confrontational political power” must be resolutely cracked down. We should learn from the successful experience of Hebei Province in combating the reactionary forces within the Chinese Catholic Church in the early 1950s. The unacceptance of the legitimate clergies among believes is generally an issue on ideology rather than on political positions. For Catholic-inhabited villages which have this problem, measures of Shanghai Bishop Jin Luxian 金鲁贤can be adopted that legitimate priests were sent to supervise churches and never yield them to “underground” priests no matter how many people enter the church. The prayer for the Pope (The Liturgy of the Hours) in our country has been approved by competent departments in accordance with the instructions of the Central Committee. Thus, the legitimate bishops and priests will eventually be accepted by the believers as long as they do not attack the Roman Catholic Church, as long as they cooperate actively with the leaders of local administrations for religious affairs. In fact, the relevant departments of Hebei Province had a clear understanding of it long ago. During the socialist ideological education movement in rural areas in 1992, the standard of the conversion of an “underground” church leader of the Catholic-inhabited villages was clearly stipulated to be “obeying the leadership of the government and the Patriotic Church” and “accepting the patriotic clergies to preside over sacraments.” However, it produced very little effect. In recent years, the successful experience of Shijiazhuang City in converting church leaders was a breakthrough to completely solve the problem of Catholic underground forces. Baoding City has replaced 134 out of former 267 church leaders, but the phenomenon that most believers do not accept legitimate bishops and priests has little change.


In addition to carefully studying and grasping the basic viewpoint and policy on the religious question during the primary stage of socialism as well as the specific policies and relevant laws and regulations for solving the problem of Catholic underground forces, the party organization should make it a priority to elect cadres of Catholic-inhabited villages and leaders of local administrations for religious affairs. Members of local party organizations and village administrations are also requested to make every effort to mobilize their religious relatives to accept legitimate clergies, because religious belief is not merely a private issue when it violates the Constitution which all party members and village cadres should defend.


3.4 Consider the Resumption of the Pilgrimages to Donglü


Formed in the history of the Catholic Church, pilgrimage is a mass religious activity aimed at strengthening religious beliefs. “Pilgrimage”, as a religious ritual of the Catholic tradition, is not only specified and stipulated in the canon law but also deeply rooted in the hearts of believers as an integral part of their faith. The pilgrimage to Sheshan 佘山Mountain of which the scale is large than that to Donglü, has been legalized and becomes a paradigm of the freedom of religious belief. There are also Islamic pilgrimages. Since the reform and opening up, the number of Muslims who make pilgrimages abroad has been increasing year by year. In 1998, the People’s Government of Hebei Province approved the pilgrimage of Ludezhuang 路德庄in Hejian 河间 City. Thus, the restrictions on pilgrimages to Donglü lacks legal and policy bases according to the principle that all legal religions are equal. The legal church members have officially proposed to the People’s Government of Hebei Province to resume the pilgrimages. They argue that the resumption of the pilgrimages will satisfy the believers, consolidate the authority of legitimate bishops and help to bring underground forces under permanent control. It should be believed that what is achieved in Sheshan can also be achieved in Donglü, since they are under the same administrative management of the People’s government by law and leadership of BCCCC. The key is the strong cooperation between the local departments and organizations of the party and government.


3.5 Strengthen Administrative Management of the Hebei Provincial Seminary of Catholic Church


The Catholic Theological Seminary in Hebei Province was established 14 years ago and has already cultivated hundreds of Catholic clergies of the new generation, which reflects its good nature.


After 1986, the number of overseas Chinese and foreign clergies coming to visit has increased, and many of them have been hired by the seminary with employment periods of several months or even a year. In 1998, the seminary was funded by the Catholic Church in Hong Kong to build a classy teaching building, showing an increasingly clear prospect of connection between the seminary and international Catholic Church (Essentially a move to approach closer to the Holy See). Under this circumstance, there are two drawbacks of the school’s education system. First, there is an unclear affiliation, which in the final analysis is the question about how to position religious education or theological education in the entire national education system. At present, the seminary is led nominally by Hebei Provincial Administrative Commission of the Chinese Catholic Church, but the executive vice president is responsible for all affairs. In February 1999, hearing of possible adjustment of his work by the Provincial Department of Ethnic and Religion, the current vice president left without notice, almost paralyzing the whole administration system of the seminary. The department has the authority over the selection of teachers, the enrollment of new students, and employment of graduates, but it is unable to intervene in the teaching process. Up till now, there has been no objective standard for evaluating the education quality of the seminary. Second, the curriculum is not standardized. This involves the problem on the relative proportion of spiritual knowledge and secular knowledge in the knowledge structure of a religious college student. Thus, it is suggested that the State Administration for Religious Affairs and relevant ministries and commissions of the State Council issue corresponding administrative regulations. In terms of the first problem, they shall establish the seminary administration committee guided by the board of directors. As to the second problem, they shall establish a faculty committee jointly led by relevant departments (civil affairs, religion, education). Both committees shall invite a certain number of government officials as well as religious and non-religious experts and scholars for meetings.


The seminary courses, except those ideological and political education of faculties and students, can basically be included in “religious affairs”. Thus, there are two complementary parts of government’s management of the seminary. The first one is the management of theological education and daily religious activities by law, requiring that teaching materials and religious activities not violate the Constitution and relevant laws. In view of the current incomplete teaching materials of the seminary, especially a lack of modern Chinese church history, it is suggested that the State Administration for Religious Affairs oblige the BCCCC to compile the materials as soon as possible and distribute them to all seminaries of Catholic Church in China in the name of the BCCCC after reviewing the content. It should be highlighted that Catholicism was used as a tool of imperialist aggression before liberation and has been transformed to religious affairs managed by Chinese people after anti-imperialist patriotic movement. The second one is the administrative management of both political education and faculties, the central point of which is to educate faculties in accordance with Article 36 of the Constitution. Other lucid expositions of the central point include the educational contents of current affairs, policies, laws, regulations, and national history. In terms of the political courses, the test should center on “learning experience of Article 36 of the Constitution” and impose a word limit. Students who refuse or fail to answer this question should be deemed ineligible to graduate. The only criterion for the test is to recognize that “Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” and ensure to take the road of “independent and self-managed church”. The competent departments shall comprehensively review the current teaching materials as well as rules and regulations of the seminary, abolish the content which violates the laws and policies, and make specific recommendations on how to improve the rules and regulations, especially those concerning the qualifications of graduates. Leaders of those department and people in charge of political courses shall attend the regular or irregular meetings of the seminary administration committee in order to supervise major issues effectively.


China Religion sponsored by the State Administration for Religious Affairs introduced the experience of the Beijing Seminary of Catholic Church in the spring of 1999: “With the continuous improvement of the religious curriculum, a relative complete education system of current affairs and politics has been formed within the seminary. Courses on Chinese modern history, socialist sociology, international politics and international relations, introduction to law, history of Chinese philosophy, Chinese Church history, history of independent and self-managed church, as well as lectures on reform and opening up, religious policies, etc. are included and all of them require tests. There is also a three-to-five-day intensive education of the principle of ‘independent and self-managed church’ before the ordainment of a new clergy, in which bishops and leaders of the CPCA talk about the relationship between ‘love the country’ and ‘love the religion’ and discuss how to adhere to the principle of ‘independent and self-managed church’.”


“Facts show that the young clergies cultivated by the Beijing Seminary of Catholic Church are trustworthy in adhering to the principles of ‘independent and self-managed church’ and ‘love the country and love the religion’. They can quickly adapt to the working environment and make achievements when taking their pastoral duties.”

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