IS THE world finally seeing a China more tolerant of the Christian faith?

The head of the state-recognized Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) believes so, citing the growing number of Catholics among his country’s 1.3 billion people.

“This is the best time to (promote) religious freedom in the past 60 years,” Liu Bainan told the Varsitarian during the sidelines of the 7th Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP) at the Manila Hotel from Oct. 17 to 21.

Liu said the two million Catholics in China 70 years ago had now ballooned to 5.6 million. He said there were also more than 6,000 nuns, 1,500 priests, and 1,500 seminarians in his country, whose government had a history of suppressing religious freedom.

Liu expressed gratitude to UST for helping shape the Catholic clergy in China. He noted that many Chinese priests had studied in UST.

“We thank God that UST has been supportive of the Catholic Church in China,” he said.

Beijing does not recognize the Vatican’s authority over its Catholics whose religious activities are allowed only within the authority of the CPCA. The government also appoints its own bishops, much to the dismay of the Holy See.

Liu did not say whether the so-called increase in the number of Chinese Catholics included those belonging to the “underground” Catholic Church, meaning those recognizing the Vatican’s authority.

Another member of the Chinese delegation to the ACRP was also optimistic about the government’s supposedly greater open-mindedness to the Christian faith.

Sister Gao Ying, a Protestant pastor, said the number of evangelicals in her country was now at around 20 million. She said the government “realized the importance of implementing social harmony” following the Cultural Revolution.

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“We all cooperate with the government,” she told the Varsitarian. “The officials now understand that religion is part of society. In fact, religious people are patriotic.”

But she noted that the separation between the church and state remained clearly defined such that “no special religious privilege is given to anyone.”

“Catholics, including the bishops, have to obey the law of the country,” she said. Andrewly A. Agaton and Danielle Clara P. Dandan

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