Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Church in China: The Patriotic Association

An analysis of the Patriotic Association in China at Asia News.

CHINA - VATICAN The Patriotic Association’s war against the Church and a “harmonious society” - Asia News
The government too seems to be distancing itself from the Patriotic Association. Two days ago, on the occasion of New Year’s greetings, Jia Qinglin, a member of the Politburo and president of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, met with the leaders of the Patriotic Associations of the various religious recognized by China. He told them that “religions can play a positive role” in building a harmonious society, referring to the slogan launched by President Hu Jintao for shaping a more just society and more balanced development. According to the Xinhua news agency, Jia asked leaders of the Patriotic Association to promote religious ideas and actions that can help achieve social harmony. “It is very important,” he said, “to make full use of the ‘positive elements’ of religion.” At the same time, he underlined that the Patriotic Association must take steps towards meeting the needs of communities and their requests. “Social harmony,” he explained, “must be defended among the followers of religions and their petitions and demands must be heard.”
Jia’s suggestion comes just days after the publication of an official study which shows that there are 300 million believers in China, three times the official figure. This means that at least 200 million Chinese are not accounted for within the official structures controlled by the Patriotic Associations. The reason is clear: no one accepts submitting to the control of the Patriotic Associations in matters of faith; plus, economic interests are often hiding under the mantle of ideological control: the seizure of goods belonging to religious communities for personal gain. To give just one example, in the Catholic Church, over 80% of the estate of Chinese dioceses has been confiscated by officials of the Patriotic Association, who sell and rent land and buildings, pocketing the income, instead of using it for the Church’s mission in poorer regions. This is something that can be multiplied by 5, that is, for all the religious communities recognized by the government: Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants.
[A recent issue of the Economist has a neat survey of the rise -- and acceptability -- of religion in China.]

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