Father Liu Quanfa from the Diocese of Zhengzhou in Henan Province was forced to give up his position after extensive persecution by the CCP.
Following the Vatican-China Deal of 2018, the Holy See and the CCP de facto recognized each other’s authority, the former taking for granted the emergence of a “new” church that is loyal both to the Pope and the government, while the latter interpreting the deal to the effect that all Catholics should join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church. To make sure of that, the authorities continue to harass the dissident clergy that refuse to do so.
Father Liu Quanfa from Minggong Road Catholic Church in Zhengzhou city of the central province of Henan is one of the recent victims of this persecution. When the previous apostolic administrator, Father Zhang Kuijin (d. 2016), retired in 2012, in the eyes of the Holy See the Catholic Diocese of Zhengzhou was both without a valid and functioning bishop or an apostolic administrator. Father Liu was then appointed as administrator of the Diocese.
A local Catholic who requested anonymity told Bitter Winter that, since last year, the president of the province’s Patriotic Catholic Association, Wang Yuesheng, and officials from the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau have continuously pressured Father Liu to abdicate his position, demanding that he recognized Wang Yuesheng as the new Diocesan administrator.
At the beginning of 2018, Father Liu published an article titled “Resolutely Uphold the Belief Rights of Christian Children” in the church’s WeChat group. A newspaper in Hong Kong later published the text. He also sent to a reporter with the Hong Kong-based Union of Catholic Asian News a photo of a sign “Minors are prohibited from entering religious venues” that the authorities displayed at the church entrance. As a result, he was accused of posting inappropriate remarks online and leaking state secrets, which resulted in retaliation from the government.
Starting in July, Father Liu’s salary and living subsidy have been suspended, and he had to rely on the alms of churchgoers to help him survive. He has been placed under tight surveillance and was prohibited from going to any church to hold Mass or even apply for the permission to go abroad for treatment.
In the wake of the Vatican-China agreement, intending to warn the Holy See that the CCP-appointed clergy members, including bishops, are unreliable, in December, Father Liu wrote a letter to Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples – the administrative institution of Roman Curia responsible for missionary work, and directly in charge of Catholic Dioceses in China. Because he was under constant surveillance, the letter was intercepted by the authorities and never reached the Cardinal. “In matters concerning the appointment of bishops, I ask that the Holy See not compromise with the CCP government easily,” Father Liu wrote in the letter. “Many of the people recommended by the government are really no good. After they are consecrated as bishops, they are notorious for their misdeeds, and many of their shortcomings are exposed. They start to waver in their faith, too. The deeds of some bishops are also despised by churchgoers. The government shouldn’t be in charge of the church’s affairs. The reason for the corruption in today’s church is basically inseparable from politicization and secularization.”
The pressure on Father Liu intensified at the beginning of this year. In late January, surveillance equipment was installed outside his residence to monitor him and his visitors, and the staircase to Father Liu’s room on the second floor was dismantled to prevent believers from contacting him in private.
Video: Workers are dismantling the staircase outside Father Liu’s room
On February 13, the police warned Father Liu not to go against the government. To intimidate him, officers used the example of Father Liu Jiangdong, a parish priest in Zhengzhou’s church of the Sacred Heart who was held in detention for a week last September and was later suspended from the priesthood for opposing the government and having “violated religious policies and regulations.”
One week later, Father Liu was summoned to the sub-district administration office, where the director of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau pressured him to give up his position and recognize Wang Yuesheng as Diocesan administrator, threatening that his clergy record would be nullified.
Father Liu once again refused. On March 4, Yang Xiude, the secretary-general of Henan’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), ousted him from the church, forcing him to return to his hometown. Wang Yuesheng took over Minggong Road Church and declared himself the parish priest. Bitter Winter was told that Wang also claimed to be “in charge” of the whole Diocese of Zhengzhou. The move elicited strong dissatisfaction from other priests and churchgoers and exposed the CCP’s continuous persecution of dissident Catholic priests.