Monday, November 21, 2005

Report #5 on the Fall of Communism

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Chinese Christians Forced to Worship in Secret

ABC News Visits Ghostly Church Ruin and Learns of Secret Services in Defiance of Chinese Communists

BAO DING, China, Nov. 20, 2005 — - On Sundays in China, most Chinese Christians worship at home and in secret.

In effect, China has two religious communities -- an underground one where Christians worship freely but illegally, and an official one with just 20 state-sanctioned Catholic and Protestant churches like the one attended by President Bush today.

The government appoints clergy, restricts printing of Bibles and, for Catholics, does not recognize the pope.

Many who defy the rules are imprisoned.

"The persecution has been going on since 1949, when the communist Chinese took over China, and this persecution is still ongoing," said Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which promotes the Catholic Church in China.

Ghost Churches
ABC News witnessed the restrictions firsthand in a heavily Christian area south of China's capital of Beijing.

There used to be a shrine in Bao Ding, China, visited by tens of thousands of Christians a year -- until the Chinese government closed it and tore it down, forcing many worshippers underground.

Deep in the countryside just after sunset, ABC News found a 110-year-old Catholic church revered by residents. Now, it is a ghostly ruin.

Many villagers were afraid to talk about it, but a man who identified himself as a lay minister said the police came suddenly in 1995, arrested the bishop and told the villagers to leave the church. Then, they closed down the church for good.

Now, like many Christians in China, they hold Mass in the middle of the night, changing locations to avoid police raids.

Tens of millions of Chinese are braving the same risk, just to practice their faith.

ABC News' Jim Sciutto originally reported this story for "World News Tonight."

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