Bishop of Xinxiang Persecuted by Communist Government

June 01, 2021
St. Michael’s Cathedral, Qingdao Diocese

Xinxiang is located in Henan Province, in northern China. Its clergy have been the target of systematic persecution by the Chinese Communist government for several days.

Msgy. Joseph Zhang Weizhu has been Bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Xinxiang since 1991. This bishop is recognized by the Holy See, but not by the Chinese government. Therefore, he is considered a criminal.

On May 20 and 21, he was arrested along with 10 of his priests, who are also considered criminals, because of their refusal to sign compliance with the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics (APCC), separated from Rome, as well as submission to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The arrest took place in Shaheqiao, Hebei Province, south of Beijing.

More than 100 police officers were mobilized to participate in this arrest. Ten seminarians were also arrested, with three others having managed to escape. However, the latter were caught. The 13 seminarians were returned to their families, forbidden to continue their ecclesiastical studies.

In China, the new regulations allow religious activities, including seminaries, as long as they are held in registered places and controlled by the government. Catholic clergy and religious personnel can only practice if they join the APCC and submit to the CCP.

The agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China has not changed this control. Indeed, the Holy See signed this accord with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a foreign state. But religious activities in China are managed by the United Front - one of the many systems of the Chinese state apparatus - and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Thus, an accord with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not affect the religious management of the CCP. This is why, although the agreement recognizes the Pope as the head of the universal Catholic Church - including the Chinese Church - it has no bearing on Catholic communities.

On the contrary. Since the agreement, persecution has increased, especially against “underground” bishops and their communities. Cardinal Parolin should perhaps have taken a better look at the complex and formidable cogs of the CCP machinery, before embarking on an agreement.

Since their arrest, Bishop Zhang Weizhu and his ten priests have been subjected to “political sessions.” It is not difficult to clarify this vocabulary: “re-education of the enemies of the people” in the form of brainwashing. The good old communist methods are still all the rage in Mao’s country.