ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: July 07, 2015 02:31 AM GMT
The cross of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Xiaoshan was removed July 2. (Photo supplied)
A Chinese government-led cross demolition campaign has spread from Wenzhou to other dioceses in Zhejiang province with five Catholic churches having their crosses removed last week.
The crosses on churches in Songmun, Xinhe, Muyu and Dasi of Taizhou diocese as well as the Xiaoshan Sacred Heart of Jesus Church of Hangzhou diocese were demolished July 2.
Authorities said the crosses were removed in order to “Sinicize” the churches, a local source in Taizhou told ucanews.com. “When we asked the officials what means by “Sinicize” the churches, they said they did not know either but they have to remove the crosses anyway,” he added.
“It is obviously an action directed against Christianity,” the source said.
“Sinicization” of religion was first mentioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping during the central United Front Work Department meeting in May.
Under the policy, churches must adapt to Chinese society by using symbols that reflect Chinese culture under Communist rule.
In late 2013, the Chinese government embarked on a demolition campaign, with a number of high-profile demolitions of Protestant churches.
A Protestant catechist told ucanews.com that at least 1,100 churches were recorded as having its crosses removed, although the number could be much higher.
A Catholic source in Hangzhou said he witnessed the cross removal at the Xiaoshan church.
“The parish priests are left alone to face the political pressure in the campaign. There is little support from their hierarchy, and there is no united action among dioceses in the same province,” said the source who asked not to be named.
“The authorities told our priests either allow the cross to be removed or have the whole church building demolished. It was a dilemma and they were inclined to compromise,” he said.
“Some priests have demanded the local hierarchy to issue a statement earlier with regards to the demolition but the draft turns out to be an indifferent one. Some Church leaders said it would be bad if we made the government angry. But see what happens now?” the Hangzhou source said.
The Sacred Heart Church was the fourth church to have its cross removed in Hangzhou. Another church in Fuyang city was notified last month that it too will face the same fate.
“The officials said that only the Catholic cathedral and two Protestant churches will be saved from the campaign,” the Hangzhou source revealed.