Photographs of the “Underground” Catholic Church in China

I recently came across the following photos of something I had only read about before: China’s ‘Underground’ Catholic Church. Since the State is hostile to Roman Catholicism, China’s Roman Catholics must receive the sacraments and attend Mass in hiding. The photos are captivating. The photos come from photographer Lu-Nan who risked his life by shooting a photo documentary on the Underground Church.

Let the following photos remind you of how good we have it…and what we are allowing slip from our grasp in many Western countries.

Quoting Gretchen Filz:

Persecution against Christians in China is now at a new high. This month news hit that Chinese authorities arrested a Vatican-appointed bishop, and this week the Chinese government issued new regulations aimed “to suppress all unofficial religious activities via dispersing Christian house churches, silencing Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists and undermining the Vatican’s influence on Chinese Catholics.” Read more from ChinaAid.

There is, of course, a history of tension between the Vatican and the Chinese government, between the underground Catholic Church in China and the state-approved “Catholic Patriotic” churches. Yet, the atheistic Communist country continues to explode with enormous numbers of practicing Catholics.

Despite the intense crackdown by the totalitarian goverment, Christianity is growing tremendously. It is estimated that there are 12 million Catholics in China, and soon there will be more practicing Christians in China than there are in the United States. It is predicted that Christianity is growing so rapidly in the country that China is on course to become the ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years.

Here are some photos:

CHINA. Shaanxi Province. 1992. In China, the number of the ordained is far smaller than to the Catholic population. Sometimes a Father must hear nearly a thousand confessions.
“In China, the number of the ordained is far smaller than to the Catholic population. Sometimes a Father must hear nearly a thousand confessions.”

 

CHINA. Shaanxi Province. 1995. Mass is given in a member's residence in a village with no local church. Mass in a family house is officially prohibited by the Government, but the 'unofficial' churches take the risk.
“Mass is given in a member’s residence in a village with no local church. Mass in a family house is officially prohibited by the Government, but the ‘unofficial’ churches take the risk.”

 

CHINA. Yunnan Province. 1996. A priest consecrated bread signifying the body of Jesus Christ. Behind him are members of the church.
“A priest [carries] consecrated bread signifying the body of Jesus Christ. Behind him are members of the church.”
“All 20 families in this remote village are Catholic, but as there is no Father in their village they gather every Sunday and chant and pray together.”

 

“Sister Maria with an orphan, whom she has adopted. The baby must have been a “Chaoshengzi”, the second child of a ‘one child family’ policy. In this village, if a “Chaoshengzi” is found, the parents are fined 3000 Yuan. Those who have adopted “Chaoshengzi” are also fined. Sister Maria helplessly hid the babies in a sheep barn, or left them in the care of distant families, but authorities still came to investigate her upon hearing a rumour. The Sister insisted that the babies had died, and she was finally released. Sister Maria is a Sister in laity, and she looks after the villagers who are ill, baptizes villagers and devotes herself to other religious activities voluntarily.”
“A Father gives a ceremony to the ill, who are bedridden.”

 

An 81 year old believer, Ren-Zhongzin, became paralysed on one side. She begged the village Father to give her a “final blessing” because she was close to death. Chinese Catholics are less afraid of death than other Chinese; they regard death not as the end of life, but the turning point, and they believe that the soul remains eternal. What they are truly afraid of is not death itself, but when the soul does not reach heaven.

 

An 8-day-old baby is baptised. Under government law, it is forbidden to baptise anyone who is under 18 years old. This law is upheld in urban parishes, but in rural villages, the rule is ignored both by the ‘official’ and the ‘unofficial’ church.

 

An old woman saying a prayer before her meal.”

 

A Catholic family eats dinner

 

A Catholic couple prays before going to sleep.”

 

Catholic priest doing confession before the mass at home”

 

Bishop Fan Yu Fei is considered by the State a bishop of an “Unofficial Church”. Here he is blessing a man who is ill. Because he belongs to a church not sanctioned by the government, “he was always under government surveillance”. He was “suddenly and arbitrarily” locked up for five months and eventually died from a “sudden heart problem”.

 

“Praying for an illegal priest who just died.”

See all the photos here. ☩

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