Eight Catholics nuns decided to leave their convent in the northern province of Shanxi this fall after repeated harassment and intimidations by local authorities. Because they used to live abroad, the nuns were under constant surveillance, but the order in August to remove the cross from the convent was the last straw.
“The cross is a symbol of salvation. Removing it felt like cutting our own flesh,” one of the nuns said. “Had we refused to take it away, the government would have demolished the convent.” The nuns were also told to purge all other religious symbols, resulting in the removal of all crosses and a dozen religious statues inside the convent.
“Officials declared us ‘dangerous persons’ and repeatedly harassed us,” the nun continued. “They asked us to write down what we had done since kindergartens and demanded to disclose everything we did over the past few months. They even wanted us to remember the license plates of the vehicles we used during our trips.”
Four surveillance cameras have been installed in the convent to monitor the nuns and visitors. There were even plans to install cameras in their dining room, kitchen, and laundry room, but the nuns managed to prevent this.
“Three persons, a police officer and two local officials, were assigned to keep watch over us,” the nun said. “They often went inside the convent to inquire about our activities, sometimes at night. The government even hired some thugs and ruffians to harass us. They would get into the kitchen while we cooked to mess around or act lasciviously, inviting us to have dinner with them.”
Catholics in China suffer increasingly severe persecution. Attacks against them were ramped up ahead of the Vatican-China Deal of 2018 renewal this October.
On September 13, a Catholic church in Hebei’s Shenzhou city was shut down for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) after the cross, other religious symbols, and statues have been removed.
“The Communist Party is exerting even more severe suppression on religion than during the Cultural Revolution,” a congregation member commented.
An unregistered Catholic church in Youtong village in the Luancheng district of Hebei’s Shijiazhuang city was shut down on September 3, also for refusing to join the Patriotic Church. Village officials supervised congregation members removing religious statues and the altar before closing the church.
“If we join the CPCA, we’ll be completely controlled by the CCP, cut off from God. We won’t surrender!” a church member said with determination.
Another Catholic venue in Shijiazhuang was shut down in May because it did not have the religious activity venue registration certificate. Local officials pressured the church priest to join the CPCA, threatening to deprive him of the right to celebrate Mass. Unwilling to compromise, the priest moved out and now holds small congregation gatherings in secret.
“By forcing us into the ‘legal’ churches, the government aims to eliminate our faith, to make all people believe in the Communist Party only,” a local Catholic said.