Two Tormented Chinese Catholic Souls
Francesco Sisci writes in the Asia Times:
In China, it is now trendy to wear a cross, hanging from a small chain at the neck and fully exposed on the chest. The cross might be made of wood, metal or, even, silver or gold or with precious stones. However, the cross is not always worn for the sake of fashion. While it may be worn as jewelry, it is also worn by many as a religious statement.
Today, when asked about the meaning of the cross, the bearer might answer, proudly and clearly, “Yes I am a Christian.” Yet, after that pronouncement, everything becomes blurred. Most people do not know the difference between being Christian (jidujiao in China refers to Protestants) and being Catholic, or of the various branches of the Protestant faith.
A Chinese government estimate puts the total number of Chinese “Christians” at 130 million, almost 10% of the population, and at least five times the percentage of Christians (Protestants and Catholics) as when the communists took power in China in 1949. Even taking into account the country’s population increase during the past 60 years, the absolute numbers of Christians has grown immensely from the original 8 to 9 million in 1949.
However, when taking a closer look at these numbers there might, in fact, be little change from 1949. The Catholics, even in their more optimistic estimates, make up no more than 12 to 13 million, or about 1% of China’’s population. Of note, this is the same percentage of Catholics as in 1949. The rest of the Christians are Protestants or members of similar groups.