Rome (AsiaNews) – For the first time ever, Chinese youths from the underground Church will participate in the World Youth Day. Around 100 have managed to reach Cologne to attend the XX WYD. Among them are Catholic students already studying abroad and youths coming directly from the People’s Republic of China. There are priests, sisters and lay people from a number of dioceses: Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Fujian and Mongolia interior.
Reaching Cologne has not been easy. In China, the government allows only freedom of worship linked to personnel and structures officially registered with the state Religious Affairs Office and controlled by the Patriotic Association. Believers who do not accept to be controlled by official structures and who practice their faith in structures which are not registered (unofficial, underground) risk punishment for “illegal” actions and “disturbance of public order”.
A youth from Shanghai explains: “The clandestine Church in China is persecuted. But the details of this persecution are little known abroad. For example, few know that the government at all levels (provincial, city, district or village) has drawn up diverse regulations – both secret and public – according to situations which arise.
“One of these stipulates that the police should not issue a passport to a clandestine Catholic without the permission of the religious administration authority.’ Since clandestine Catholics are not down on official lists, it is very difficult for us to go abroad to study, to go on pilgrimage or to attend the World Youth Day.”
The groups present in Cologne were not discouraged: they asked for their passports and visas months ago, using false ID cards and claiming they wished to go abroad for tourism.
WYD organisers are happy with their attendance in Cologne; they started preparing a catechism program specifically for them as soon as they found out about it.
“It is the first time China’s clandestine Church manages to participate in the WYD,” said one of the group leaders. “We want to exploit this occasion to get to know better our peers who live our same faith, to feel part of the universal Church and perhaps even to try to meet the Pope.” [Source]
Interesting. I wonder if Chinese authorities are turning a blind eye to this for what appears to be increasing signs of possible warming of relations between China and the Vatican. Though there is certainly a long way to go before "patriotic Catholic churches" can in reality not be in schism. Hopefully also there won’t be reprimands for these Chinese youth when they return.