China to lead Protestants worshipping at unregistered churches to official ones

08:20, January 25, 2011      

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China's State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) said Monday it will in 2011 guide Protestants worshipping at unregistered churches into worshipping at government-sanctioned ones.

In a priority agenda publicized on its website, the SARA said the move will help the activities of Protestant churches proceed in a normal and orderly way. But the agenda did not detail how the SARA will do the guiding.

Religious freedom is enshrined in China's state constitution but, under the Regulations on Religious Affairs, group religious activities shall, in general, be conducted at registered religious activity sites, such as Buddhist monasteries, Taoist temples, mosques and churches.

A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) survey conducted in 2008 and 2009 estimated the number of Protestant Christians in China to be 23.05 million.

The survey found that nearly 70 percent of the believers worship in registered churches, with the other 30 percent practicing their faith in unregistered churches, the residences of friends or their own home.

In accordance with its 2011 agenda, the SARA will also work to educate China's Catholics on the principle of self-governance in church affairs, guiding Catholic churches in China to independently select and consecrate bishops.

In 2010, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China, the two administrative bodies of China's Catholic church, completed the consecration and inauguration of bishops or assistant bishops for 13 congregations, the SARA said in a 2010 work report.

The number of bishops and assistant bishops consecrated in 2010 was the largest in years, the report posted on the SARA website Monday said.

With regards to Islam, the SARA said it will prohibit private pilgrimages to Mecca in accordance with the law and will improve the chartering of planes for Chinese Muslims' pilgrimages.

Last year, over 13,000 Chinese Muslims fulfilled their Mecca pilgrimage obligation on charted flights.

Moreover, the SARA will continue to survey and research folk beliefs and other religions, in addition to the five religions that are officially recognized by the Chinese government - Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Daoism, China's indigenous religion.

The agenda said the SARA will strengthen regulation of foreign nationals' group religious activities in China and resist foreign infiltration under the pretext of religion.

Source: Xinhua
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