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China bans Christian funerals as new rules take effect

Regulations aim to end bad customs and establish scientific, civilized and economical funerals
China bans Christian funerals as new rules take effect

Christians gather before a human chain was formed in Hong Kong on Aug. 23, 2019. A new set of rules to regulate religions has banned Christian funerals in some parts of China. (Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP)

Published: February 03, 2020 02:58 AM GMT
Updated: February 03, 2020 02:59 AM GMT

Christian funerals have been banned in some areas of China as the communist government begins to enforce a set of repressive regulations on religious practices.

In the eastern province of Zhejiang, the government has put in force a set of Regulations on Centralized Funeral Arrangement, which bans priests from attending funeral prayers outside a religious place.

The government claims the new rules aim to “get rid of bad funeral customs and establish a scientific, civilized and economical way of funerals.”

“Clerical personnel are not allowed to participate in funerals” at homes and “no more than 10 family members of the deceased are allowed to read scriptures or sing hymns in a low voice," the rules state. 

The new rules began to take effect recently, although enacted on Dec. 1, said a Catholic in Wenzhou Diocese in Zhejiang.

The regulations strictly ban “religious activities outside religious places, so the priest will not be able to hold funeral prayers outside the church,” he told UCA News.

Huang Jian, also of Wenzhou, said that after the new regulations were announced, “priests are not attending religious funeral ceremonies.”

In villages priests could visit parishioners' homes but could not conduct any religious ceremonies or prayers, he told UCA News.

Father Guo of Henan parish, which is part of the open church approved by the state, told UCA News that government officials have asked them to strictly follow the Regulations on Religious Affairs.

“Otherwise there would be penalties. The punishment could even be closing the church and cancelling the priest's priesthood certificate, letting the priest go home,” he said.

Father Guo did not deny that the situation of the Chinese Church is worrying.

"It has been oppressed to this extent. I only do what I should do, otherwise I cannot face God," he said.

"They don’t let me be a priest. If they don’t let me go to church, I’ll just go underground. Anyway, the church on the ground is now oppressed no differently from the underground. Be restrained."

Father Guo said communists will hold memorial services when they die. "Why are we Catholics not allowed to hold a ceremony? This is exactly persecution,” he added.

Father Peter Lee, another member of the open church in eastern Shandong, told UCA News that government instructions had not come to him so far.

"I still hold sacraments at the homes of dead parishioners. The day before yesterday, I sent a greeting to a church member from home to the cemetery. No one blocked it," he told UCA News on Jan.30.

"As a priest, we need to accompany church members to make them feel like everyone is a family. Particularly, baptisms and funerals are very important for families." 

Zhang Haomin, parish leader in Cangzhou in Hebei province, said it had not received any notification from the government, “so everything will continue as usual.”

"The government now requires society to simplify funerals. The funeral ceremonies held by our church are simple, do not burn paper, and do not pollute the environment,” he said.

China has banned funerals, burials and other related activities involving the corpses of deceased victims of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan in Hubei province.

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