Two official Church bodies in Zhejiang have issued a joint report demanding that authorities stop removing crosses on Catholic Churches. A dozen leaders of the provincial Catholic Patriotic Association and the Church Affairs Commission, known by the acronym, Lianghui, issued the report addressed to the provincial Ethnic and Religious Commission saying, “the situation is getting more and more serious and that they had to speak out”, said a source who asked not to be named. In the report, the Church leaders in Lianghui described the cross removals as an “evil act that has to be stopped immediately” and that it had made Catholic priests and laity in Zhejiang “very angry”. “The cross is a symbol of the Christian faith and some of the buildings are legally approved. It is unexplainable why it has to be forcibly removed,” the Lianghui source told ucanews.com.
An emergency meeting was called by the group on July 4 through “Wechat” — a popular smartphone app used by some 600 million people in China — as some Church leaders were currently in the United States. The document also was sent to the Communist Party’s local and central United Front Work departments, the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the government-sanctioned bishops’ conference and the national Catholic Patriotic Association. Copies were sent to four Catholic dioceses in the province, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Taizhou and Wenzhou.
However, a Wenzhou Catholic identified as Joseph said “the report was written not for the government authorities but to appease Catholics”. It is “just a gesture” to show they have “at least made a protest”, he said. “If they are really serious about this,” Joseph said, “they should hire a lawyer and sue the authorities”. The cross removal campaign began in late 2013. A Protestant minister told ucanews.com last week that more than 1,100 Christian Churches across Zhejiang had crosses moved. He believes many more removals went unreported because the churches concerned are in remote areas. Since last year, about 40 Catholic churches have had their crosses removed in Wenzhou. Ten others were removed in Hangzhou and Taizhou over the past two months. The latest incidents saw two Catholic churches in Hangzhou have their crosses removed on July 9. One of the churches, the Jingjiang church, "was the last church in the Xiaoshan area to have its cross removed,” a local source said.
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