Can Pope Francis and Xi Jinping find common ground?
When Beijing and the Vatican reached a provisional agreement in 2018 over who had the authority to appoint Roman Catholic bishops in China, it signaled a possible breakthrough in a troubled relationship stretching back six decades.  It seems the signals were wrong. Details of the pact – forged after more than three decades of negotiations – have never been made public. Still, the agreement marked the communist state’s first indication it was ready to share some authority with the Pope over control of China’s Catholic Church.  The hope was the agreement would heal a rift from the 1940s, when Beijing kicked the church out of China and started an autonomous Catholic church that operates indepe
Secretive church linked to South Korea’s outbreak may have ties to Wuhan
Members of the Christian sect linked to a cluster of coronavirus cases in South Korea held meetings in Wuhan until December, only stopping when they realized that their community had been hit by Covid-19, the previously unknown disease caused by the virus. The South China Morning Post has learned that the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the epidemic, has around 200 members, most of whom are currently under quarantine outside the city. “Rumors about a virus began to circulate in November but no one took them seriously,” said one member, a 28-year-old kindergarten teacher. “I was in Wuhan in December when our church suspended all gatherings as soon as we
Prominent Chinese pastor sentenced to 9 years in prison
A founding pastor of China’s Early Rain Covenant Church has been sentenced to nine years in jail by a Chinese court for inciting subversion of state power and other crimes. Wang Yi was detained in December 2018 along with other senior figures in the prominent underground Christian church during overnight raids across various districts of Chengdu, the southwestern city where the church was founded. On Monday, the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court released its judgment, which said the pastor was also convicted of illegal business operations. In addition to the jail term, Wang would be stripped of his political rights for three years. Personal assets valuing $7,000 would also be confiscated.
Chinese Muslim protest halts plan to demolish new mosque
A crackdown on religious practices has triggered a rare protest from China’s Muslims. The Chinese government has been forced to change its plans to demolish a new mosque in northwestern China after the protest. Images seen online showed hundreds of Muslims gathering from noon until late in the night on Thursday in the square outside the Weizhou Grand Mosque. The stand-off in the town of Weizhou in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is the latest, and possibly largest, conflict in China’s recent campaign to rid the region of what Beijing regards as a worrying trend of Islamization and Arabization. Ningxia is home to a large number of China’s Islamic people. The country has more than 20 millio
Christianity’s ‘explosive growth’ in China – and the official pushback
Protestant Christianity has been one of the fastest-growing religions in China in recent years, rising from having just three million adherents in the 1980s to as many as an estimated 100 million this year. But in the officially atheist state, the rapid expansion has led to tensions with the authorities. Only state-sanctioned churches are allowed to operate in China, but most Protestants go to unofficial “house churches,” also known as “underground” churches. Last month, sweeping new religion regulations took effect, imposing stricter restrictions and harsher punishments on unregistered religious activities. Here's how the regulations came about, and what they mean for religious life in Chin
How I became a Chinese Christian
I was taught to be an atheist in China, but I am now a devoted Christian. In China, faith is considered to be superstitious and against science. As a teenager, I was given the idea that intelligent people should not follow any religion. Communist Party members are supposed to be atheists. Textbooks also talk about religions in a negative way. Most Chinese students did not get a chance to develop a deep understanding of Western culture and beliefs. In my childhood memories, Christianity was only about the huge Christmas trees in shopping malls, decorated with shiny lights and all kinds of wrapped gifts. I was given the idea that intelligent people should not follow any religion. Communist Par
The Vatican should work with Beijing to unify Catholics
The Vatican and the Chinese government are in talks about resuming ties, which were officially severed in 1951. The major roadblock to better China-Holy See relations is the status of bishops and underground churches in China. Some bishops were appointed by Beijing, others by the Vatican, while a few have gained tacit approval from both. How these current bishops will be recognized and how new bishops are appointed are key questions. However, there are wider concerns about what these negotiations mean for Catholics in China and the Catholic Church overall. The Communist government has long been wary of religious groups, due to historical examples of churches as bases for political movements.
Joseph Zen: the critical cardinal
Cardinal Joseph Zen, former Bishop of Hong Kong, has long been an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party. On the eve of a historic deal between the Vatican and Beijing, he remains skeptical of the future of Catholicism in China.
Meet the toughest critic of the Vatican’s China deal
Cardinal Joseph Zen is not afraid of throwing down the gauntlet. Aged 86, he is the most outspoken critic of a deal in the works between the Holy See and Beijing. Cardinal Zen has been a vocal opponent of the Chinese Communist Party for decades. During his years as the bishop of Hong Kong, he was one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement, including during the sustained protests of 2014. The Vatican and China broke off  ties in 1951, two years after the Chinese Communist Party took over the country at the end of the Chinese Civil War.   The appointment of bishops, senior leaders within the Catholic Church, is the biggest obstacle to the normalization of bilateral ties. The agreement,
Hope and fear: the plight of underground Catholics as Vatican-Beijing deal looms
The surveillance cameras pointing at the entrance of the humble three-story building in eastern China are not enough to stop daily mass from being held at Father Matthew’s home. The priest, who spent decades in jail on account of his faith, has no assistants and uses a dining table in lieu of a proper altar. A picture of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns hangs on the wall, along with other religious paintings and statues, overlooking the congregation of 40 – mainly elderly – people. They sit on stools and kneel on mats to pray and receive communion just as they have for the last 30 years. But soon this will all come to an end. Father Matthew – not his real name – is planning to retire in si