In 2017, Bishop Guo Xijin of Mindong in China’s Fujian province disappeared. At that time, he was pressured to sign a document stating his willingness to “voluntarily” be demoted to coadjutor bishop, as a condition that he be recognized by the government during his one month detention.
This would have been bad enough. But in 2018, Pope Francis became the one to order Guo to step down, taking the role of auxiliary bishop of his own diocese. The demotion was not for any failure on Guo’s part, but rather to allow a Communist Party-approved bishop to take his place, as part of the Vatican’s new deal with Beijing.
That deal, according to Steven Mosher, a China expert and founder of the Population Research Institute, would allegedly “give Rome the leverage it needs to improve conditions for Catholics in China.”
Mosher warned Vatican officials last year not to make the deal. His warnings went unheeded. And conditions for Catholics in China have definitely not improved.
Last November, Bishop Guo had to flee from police who again tried to force him to join the independent Chinese Patriotic Church — the very one the Vatican has, under Francis, rehabilitated, and whose bishop took Guo’s place.
He took refuge in his hometown of Luojiang.
But now, Bishop Guo has been made homeless, evicted from his curial building in Luojiang, along with the priests who lived with him there. The reason given by officials was a failure to observe “fire safety standards” – the same reason, according to Asia News reporter Bernardo Cervellera in a January 16 report, given to at least five parishes in the region, the two largest of which served approximately 13,000 parishioners.
To speed up his eviction, all electricity and water supplies were cut from the building yesterday. Officially, the eviction is dictated for security reasons. A sign placed in front of the curia explains that the building – built with all permits over 10 years ago – does not respect the fire regulations and must therefore be closed. In reality, the police operation is a sign of official annoyance and an attempt to pressure the bishop and his priests who refuse to sign up to an “independent” Church.
Msgr. Guo Xijin is one of the “victims” of the Sino-Vatican agreement, which has transformed the diocese of Mindong into a kind of “pilot project” for the implementation of the accord.
Following the agreement and the lifting of the excommunication from the official bishop Vincenzo Zhan Silu, at the request of Pope Francis, Msgr. Guo agreed to be demoted to auxiliary bishop to leave the ordinary seat to Msgr. Zhan.
However, Msgr. Guo, never signed up for membership in the independent Church and thus has not been recognized by the government with the result that he has now been downgraded to the status of homeless and migrant.
The Chinese government has also closed a home that cared for the elderly, run by the Little Sisters of Mercy and Charity, that was home to over 30 people. Those residents who have no family to stay with are now also homeless.
Bishop Zhan, the Communist-approved bishop whose excommunication was lifted by Francis and who replaced Bishop Guo at the pope’s command, has been encouraging the local priests to join the officially-sanctioned Chinese independent church “to avoid more trouble, reminding them that this is the indication given by the Holy See in the Guidelines published last June.”
“The United Front and the Religious Affairs Office,” Cervellera’s report continues, “which manage the activities of religions and the Church, are determined to eradicate every element that does not submit and no longer respects even the episcopal authority of Msgr. Zhan Silu. According to some priests, Msgr. Zhan was kept in the dark about all the eviction operations against Msgr. Guo and the various parish priests. The United Front wants to force reluctant priests by threatening retaliation against their families: by evicting them from their homes or causing family members to lose their jobs.”
Priests of the region have reportedly said that “It is time for the Vatican Secretariat of State to wake up from their dream” and “acknowledge that it has made a mistake, otherwise it will be complicit in this situation.”
But their complicity in the situation is already undeniable. Faithful Chinese Catholics are being persecuted, and it is happening with the Vatican’s help.
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