Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

February 6, 2015

Christianity in China?

There are quite a few question marks about Catholicism and Christianity in China today. Have your students research the answers to these questions. (Another option is to share some information with them and then use a Socratic method to help them discover some of the current religious dynamics.)


  • What is the difference between the Catholic Patriotic Association and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement versus the unofficial Catholic and Protestant churches? (The first two names describe the Catholic and Protestant Churches headed by government officials and in the case of Catholicism, rather than the Vatican. The unofficial churches are those that are unwilling to be regulated by the government.)
  • Why does the Vatican not have relations with the People’s Republic of China in Beijing and instead have relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan? (Not only does the Beijing government not approve of the Vatican and considers it a “foreign force” that is likely to “interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Beijing also does not recognize the Vatican’s right to name bishops and otherwise make decisions for the Chinese Catholic church like it does in other parts of the world. The Vatican does not have the same issues with the government in Taiwan.)
  • What opportunities are available to those who are Communist Party members in China that are not open to non-party members? (Prior to the 1980s, membership in the Communist Party was the aspiration of many Chinese. Now, anyone interested in a career in government and in some other job areas must be a Community Party member.)
  • Although China’s atheist Communist government cracked down on religious organizations in the 1960s, they had lessened the attacks somewhat over time. What new religious threats may be the reason that the country is cracking down again on all Christian groups? (Christian groups are growing very quickly and may already exceed the number of Communist Party members. The Communist Party is also taking a more nationalistic tone under its leader, Xi Jinping.)
  • What types of measures is the Chinese government taking to try and stem the growing number of Christians in the country? (The Chinese government has been sending police to congregations, removing crosses from churches, tearing down churches in some places – especially in the Zhejiang province, arresting underground bishops and home church leaders, putting others under house arrest, and ordaining priests they can control as bishops.)
  • What does this statement, “resolutely resist the use of Christianity by foreigners to infiltrate China,” say about the officials’ fears about Christianity? (One of the reasons that Christianity threatens Communist Party leaders is because it is international and not completely under the control of the Community Party.)
  • What do China’s President’s praises of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism suggest about the party’s feelings about religion? (Perhaps the Party’s concern is not so much with religion per se but with Christianity since they seem to hope that reviving these Asian religions will lessen the spread of Christianity.)


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