Some of the reports emerging abroad about the situation in Hebei province, Northern China, where two priests have been reportedly detained are not accurate.
We don’t see signs of a country wide push for repression or persecution against Catholics in China. We do see problems emerging in some places for many specific reasons.
There is a lot of tension in that area in Hebei also because of historical frictions between parts of the Catholic community and the local government. This goes back to the 1950s, the times of the Cultural Revolution and possibly it harks back to the time of the Boxer Rebellion, in the 1900, where Christians and Catholics were considered traitors.
Moreover, some in the local government ignore the spirit of the agreement and drags its feet or boycotts the agreement with the Holy See. Possibly because the agreement directly or indirectly goes against its own interests and old practices.
On top of that the new agreement needs a change in old ways to cope with Catholics, and thus it needs an effort of the officials in the local government. But some try to shirk responsibilities and want to apply the new regulations literally, to cover their backs.
In addition to the irresponsible and arbitrary implementing of new religious regulations by some local government agencies, the die-hard resistance against the call for cooperation and unity by Pope Francis following the China-Vatican provisional agreement by some Church people is also at play.
This episode in Hebei actually proves that in 85% – 90% of China the agreement works, is positive and people are happy. This is because we can see that when there is a problem we know about it. Therefore, we also know where and when there are no problems, and elsewhere there are no problems and we know that people are very happy with the agreement. We also believe that these present problems will be overcome with time and patience.