Beijing tried to silence celebrations of canonizations

Government Launched Anti-canonization Crackdown, Reports Say

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ROME, OCT. 5, 2000 ( Beijing undertook a major campaign
within the country to stifle news and celebrations over last Sunday´s
canonization of 120 China martyrs.

According to the Fides news agency and Asian newspapers, Communist
government officials unleased threats against bishops and priests — both
of the state-approved and underground churches — and flooded newspapers
with anti-Vatican propaganda.

Pope John Paul II canonized 120 martyrs — 87 Chinese and 33 missionaries
— and called them «examples of courage and coherence» for the universal
Church, and an «honor for the noble Chinese nation.» Beijing, however,
objected strongly, claiming the martyrs were enemies of the state.

Hong Kong-based UCA News reported that various bishops and priests of the
state-controlled «patriotic» church had been pressured by the government to
avoid speaking publicly about the canonization during Masses on Oct. 1. One
priest said officials even attended his Mass apparently to monitor what he
said, UCA reported.

There were exceptions to the news blackout: a patriotic-church priest in
northeastern China mentioned the canonization and the feast of St Thérèse
of Lisieux during his homily Oct. 1, UCA said.

In another diocese in the northeast the clergy celebrated Mass in honor
China’s saints, but secretly late at night, the agency reported. Many
dioceses in China have churches and chapels dedicated to the martyrs
canonized Sunday.

The South China Morning Post, also based in Hong Kong, reported that the
state church there was also pressured to play down the canonization.

«On Sept. 18,» the Post reported Sunday, «a representative of the Hong Kong
Diocese was summoned to meet officials from the central Government’s
Liaison Office … [contact between mainland China and Hong Kong] and told
to keep the local celebrations ´low key.´» Nevertheless, prayers and Masses
were said all weekend in the churches and chapels named after the new saints.

The South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong, speculated that
«Beijing’s reaction to the canonizations reflects its fear that it is
losing its grip on the mainland’s religious groups. Chinese authorities
object to the Pope naming bishops without the approval of the government
and the … Chinese Catholics Patriotic Association (CCPA).»
It continued: «But there are signs that some [bishops and priests] in the
state-backed CCPA are becoming less willing to do the government’s
bidding.… The government is aware that it is losing control and has decided
to use the canonizations as an opportunity to paint the Vatican as the
enemy of the nation.»

In its anti-canonization campaign the government flooded newspapers and Web
sites with articles, commentaries and historical analyses on the activity
of the Church and foreign missionaries in China. In just one day, Sept. 30,
Fides’ Web office registered 82 articles on this subject on a
Chinese-interest Web site.

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