The Chinese government has decided to forcefully remove more than two thousand crosses from churches across China as part of a government campaign to regulate “excessive religious sites”. According to the reports, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has decided to pull down crosses atop of churches across the country as part of its post-coronavirus crusade against Christianity. The campaign is reportedly aimed at eradicating Christian landscape and its symbols from China.
The nation’s leadership has launched the crusade to eradicate Christianity in various provinces for two years now. Several members have been arrested for attempting to halt the government’s crude attempt to suppress the Christian faith, said a report published by Express.
Reportedly, on Easter Sunday, the Chinese authorities ripped down the cross that used to surmount the tympanum of a church in the diocese of Xinxiang in Henan province.
Fallout of the agreement between CCP and Vatican church
A blogger priest, Father Shanren Shenfu said that silence in the face of the destruction of crosses is part of the price to pay for the Vatican’s agreement with the CCP on the appointment of bishops in the country.
The provisional agreement allows the pope to appoint and veto bishops appointed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The agreement aims to merge the state-run open church with the underground church loyal to the Vatican.
“Now when a cross is removed, Christians must be calm and smile,” said Father Shenfu.
He added, “Accepting the removal of the crosses as an everyday event, therefore, seems to be the only great contribution that the Chinese Catholic faithful and all the people of God can make to the continuation of the [Sino-Vatican] Agreement.”
The priest said if anyone was angry about the destruction, he would be considered a criminal.
Removal of Chinese symbols in various provinces across China
The authorities removed the cross from Our Lady of the Rosary church in the diocese of Anhui on April 18 after parish leaders unsuccessfully petitioned local authorities for permission to carry out repairs on the building. The officials denied the permission, saying the plan is to remove all crosses from Christian churches in the area, both Catholic and Protestant.
In a separate incident, authorities arrived at a church in Suzhou City belonging to the same Anhui diocese on April 19 and removed the cross from that church as well.
Similarly, authorities removed the cross from a historic Christian church in Hefei on April 27. The Hefei Christian Church (HCC), Hefei city’s largest Christian church, was founded by American missionaries sent by Disciples of Christ to China in 1896. HCC was the second victim of cross removal in Hefei city as Chinese authorities removed the cross from the Feixi Sanhe Church on April 15.
Generally, the security forces oversee such pre-dawn operations and make sure that people could not enter the church, gather outside, or take pictures of the demolition.
A priest from Anhui, identified as Father Chen said that the authorities use the same routine and tactics all across China. “This is not the case of a particular diocese or province. It is happening all over the mainland, but the mainland church is silent,” he added.
“If the churches don’t unite to resist, many more crosses will be removed,” the priest declared.
The church leaders in China have offered no resistance to the removal of crosses out of fear of losing the church building itself.
Restrictions on churches
In 2015, the Chinese province of Zhejiang had banned placing crosses on church rooftops and had ordered to remove hundreds of rooftop crosses from Protestant and Catholic churches, in an effort to prevent leaders from restoring the Christian symbol to the top of buildings.
Since October 2018, hundreds of crosses across China have been removed in the campaign against Christianity. Dioceses in Zhejiang, Henan, Hebei and Guizhou provinces have witnessed several crosses being removed, allegedly after they violated planning laws.
In October 2019, a church in Guantao County in Hebei was demolished because it was accused of “illegally occupying cultivated land”. In 2020 alone, the crosses of two churches in Qiu County in Hebei have been removed.
There are stipulated rules that any crosses must be affixed to the facade of buildings and not above the roof. The crosses should also not measure more than one-tenth of the height of the facade. Since early 2014, Zhejiang officials targeted the city of Wenzhou, known as China’s Jerusalem as it had half of the province’s 4,000 churches.