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Catholics in the People's Republic of China (PRC) Lindblom, John


This group includes all Catholics in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (i.e. mainland China, excluding Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) from its founding in 1949 to the present. It includes believers who participate in the registered (or "above ground") part of the church as well as the unregistered (or "underground") part of the church, and those in both urban and rural locations. In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Chairman Mao Zedong defeated the Nationalist Party (KMT), and established the PRC, there were an estimated four million Catholics in China. Whereas the KMT government supported them and had established diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the CCP (even before 1949) had begun to persecute Catholics as agents of foreign imperialism. Broader CCP efforts to eradicate all religion in favor of Marxist atheism began in the 1950s. Fr. Beda Chang (Zhang Boda 张伯达), the first Catholic martyr under CCP rule, was martyred in 1951. After resisting CCP pressure, a large group of Catholics in Shanghai, including its first Chinese bishop, Ignatius Kung Pin-mei (Gong Pinmei 龔品梅), was arrested in 1955. In 1957 the government established the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), a government body responsible for ensuring compliance with the demand that the Church in China must be “independent” and self-sustaining, with no official ties to the Vatican or the Pope. A percentage of clergy accepted these demands, and formed the state-approved official, or “above-ground” church, while the majority of Catholics, who rejected these demands as incompatible with the Catholic faith, became known as the unofficial, or “underground” Church. The CCPA began orchestrating the appointment of bishops without papal approval, which continued until 2018, when a controversial agreement between the Holy See and the PRC government was signed. Since 2018, the government has continued to pressure underground clergy to agree to a separation, or “independence” from the Holy See. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), all perceived political enemies of Mao were persecuted, and believers of all religions, including official and underground Christians were killed or suffered mental or physical mistreatment. After Mao’s death, official churches reopened, but still under the CCPA’s oversight. To the surprise of many, the number of Christians had grown during these silent years, and continued to expand from the 1980s to the present. Today China has an estimated 10-12 million Catholics, and many more Protestant Christians.

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