Mainland China bans visits by Hong Kong Catholics


HONG KONG, AFP

Mainland China has called off a planned visit by Hong Kong Catholic groups to the mainland after the Vatican’s canonization of 120 Chinese missionary martyrs, church sources said on Monday.

“I can confirm that two Catholic groups from Hong Kong were asked by Chinese authorities not to proceed with their planned visits,” an official of the Catholic diocese told AFP.

“The cancellations of the trips were made after the canonizations of Chinese martyrs by the Holy Father” on October 1, the official who declined to be named said.

The two Catholic groups were planning to visit churches and shrines in neighboring Guangdong province, he said.

The ban comes after Beijing officials here had asked local Catholic churches to keep a low profile over the canonizations, but the request was turned down by the Catholic diocese.

In the past, Catholic groups had been allowed to visit the mainland, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Catholic church bishop, Joseph Zen Zekiun, told a Hong Kong government-run radio program that the Beijing authorities had over the past few weeks banned mainland visits and teaching tours of some Hong Kong Catholic groups.

He attributed the move to the authorities’ unwillingness to let Hong Kong’s Catholic followers get in touch with their mainland counterparts.

However, Bishop Zen believes the move is only temporary as mainland officials have only said they are either busy or the time is inappropriate.

“My guess is that the central government is worried that even the bishops and priests of the official church are going more and more towards Rome and so this is for them a good occasion to paint the Holy See as the enemy of our country,” he said.

Bishop Zen also expressed pessimism over the possible normalization of relations between the Vatican and Beijing.

Pope John Paul II on October 1 canonized the Chinese “martyrs” in a controversial ceremony that coincided with communist China’s National Day.