The country of China tends to have one of the most oppressive political regimes when it comes to freedom of religion. Christians are often persecuted and over the past few years many Catholic and Protestant Churches have been destroyed by the order of the government. There are roughly 30 million Catholics in China, but they are separated into two groups. The first group falls under the ‘Patriotic’ Catholic Church which is the only one approved by the communist government because they want more control over its leaders and what is being preached. This is important to ensure there is no contradiction to the party line in the nation. The other group is the ‘Underground’ Catholic Church, which is faithful to Rome with bishops chosen through the proper means. Its activities are usually kept secret.
The Catholic Church has a relatively unified command structure, a well-defined theology and a disciplined organizational structure. It has global reach and mass appeal, commands great loyalty and has long demonstrated the ability to survive and expand in even the most difficult political situations. In each of these ways, it rivals, perhaps even bests, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.). And so, naturally, the C.C.P. sees Chinese Catholics’ allegiance to the pope as a direct challenge to their allegiance to the party.
As the C.C.P. continues to crack down on organized religion in China, many faithful Catholics have to continue to practice their faith secretly so as to not become a casualty of the government’s purge and control of the church. This has caused consternation among the “underground’ Catholic Church, which continues to be faithful to Rome. We need to continue to pray for a peaceful resolution to this difficult situation.