The diocese of Mindong in the southeastern province of Fujian has been suffering severe persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party because most of its priests refused to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The Vatican Guidelines of 2019, issued nine months after the Vatican-China deal of 2018 was signed, foresee that priests and bishops of what was known as the Underground Catholic Church may remain outside the Patriotic Church for reasons of conscience. Regardless, the communist regime uses any means possible to force all Catholics under its control.

Five parishes in the diocese were closed in January after their priests had been pressured to join the Patriotic Church for over a year, using indoctrination, intimidation, and even bribes. All charitable organizations established and managed by the parishes were also targeted. One such victim was “Benevolence Home,” a nursing home founded by a Catholic church in Saiqi, a town administered by Fujian’s Fuan city, over 20 years ago to care for elderly believers.

On January 12, nearly 50 local government officials and police officers raided the nursing home, where more than 30 people lived, some of whom were from impoverished households or disabled.

A church member told Bitter Winter that government personnel cut off the water and electricity supply to the nursing home and then forcibly shut it down for “substandard fire control measures.” All residents were violently dragged out of the building, many sobbed, others pleaded to be allowed to stay since they had nowhere else to go. But the officials just shrugged them off, saying that they had to solve their problems by themselves. Three elderly residents managed to hide in the church, but officers soon discovered them and dragged them outside, taking away their blankets and clothes.

“The officers were very aggressive, and I was so frightened that I fainted,” a 68-year-old resident remembered vividly. “Spiritual life is vital to me. I have no family. I am happy as long as I live in my church’s nursing home and can attend Mass. This expulsion feels like death!”

“The Communist Party is the devil,” another house resident, in her 90s, commented angrily.

A believer, over 80 years old, recounted how during the raid, officers told residents of the nursing home that it was closed down as a means to pressure the parish’s priests to join the Patriotic Church. One of them, Father Huang, was continuously persecuted for refusing to be governed by the Communists. “They even pressured us to persuade him to sign an application to join the Patriotic Church,” the believer added. “If we did, we might have had a chance to stay in the nursing home, but our faith will be controlled by the Communist Party. It won’t be Catholicism anymore.”

On April 2, Father Huang was taken away by the police and tortured by sleep deprivation. After four days, exhausted to the point of mental breakdown, he agreed to join the Patriotic Church.

A nursing home operated by Catholic conscientious objectors in Fuzhou, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, was raided on January 1. Six local government officials and police officers searched the home and confiscated 30 religious publications, a cross, and other religious symbols and paintings. They also pressured the church’s priest to sign an application to join the Patriotic church, but he refused.

Even nursing homes founded by Communist-controlled Catholic churches are not spared persecution. Catholics from state-run churches in Xian, a county administered by Cangzhou city in the northern province of Hebei, have been running the “Lude Elderly Service Center” for more than 20 years. It was registered as a government-sanctioned social welfare institution in 2013.

On October 8, 2019, three officials visited the nursing home and proclaimed that it was “too religious.” They added that nursing homes were not allowed to have religious symbols, like crosses, or allow residents to practice their faith.

According to an eyewitness, the officials ordered workers to remove the cross and the sculpture of Joseph holding baby Jesus from the pavilion at the gate of the nursing home and cover or remove the rest of religious sculptures.

The signboard of the “Hundred-Day Youth Training” building on the premises of the nursing home was discarded, and the Jesus in a nearby religious art composition “The Good Shepherd” was covered, leaving only the three sheep.

“The government wants to prevent us from practicing our faith,” the eyewitness said. “But it cannot control our hearts, where the Lord lives.”

The above comes from a May 29 story on Bitter Winter, a website which publishes stories about religious liberty in China.