Photos: Catholics in China skeptical of possible Vatican accord

Youtong, a village in northern China’s Hebei province with half of its 5,000 residents following Catholicism, provides a glimpse of the muddled and delicate situation for China's estimated 12 million Catholics. Allegiances are split between government-sanctioned churches and underground ones endorsed by the Vatican, amid expectations that a historic accord allowing the Vatican a say in the appointment of bishops in the country will soon be struck and allow believers following denominations not fully accepted by the officially atheist Communist Party freedom to practice openly.

Updated On Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST 10 Photos
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Choosing a church can be complicated in China under the officially atheist Communist Party - especially in Northern Hebei’s Youtong village, where roughly half of the 5,000 residents are Catholic. Within a mile radius, the village hosts a Catholic church sanctioned by Chinese authorities, two large ‘underground’ churches, and numerous smaller unofficial house churches. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Choosing a church can be complicated in China under the officially atheist Communist Party - especially in Northern Hebei’s Youtong village, where roughly half of the 5,000 residents are Catholic. Within a mile radius, the village hosts a Catholic church sanctioned by Chinese authorities, two large ‘underground’ churches, and numerous smaller unofficial house churches. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Youtong provides a snapshot of the delicate situation for China’s estimated 12 million Catholics. Allegiances are split between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church, whose appointments of bishops are frequently not acknowledged by authorities. An accord between the Vatican and China hangs in the balance which would allow the former a say in future appointments. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Youtong provides a snapshot of the delicate situation for China’s estimated 12 million Catholics. Allegiances are split between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church, whose appointments of bishops are frequently not acknowledged by authorities. An accord between the Vatican and China hangs in the balance which would allow the former a say in future appointments. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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On the recent Good Friday celebrations displays of faith were ubiquitous. Villagers poured into the streets to attend afternoon mass at the official church, whose spire is topped with a large cross that glints in the sunlight. Bright red banners with religious slogans, including the Chinese characters for ‘Emmanuel’, meaning God is with us, adorned many homes. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

On the recent Good Friday celebrations displays of faith were ubiquitous. Villagers poured into the streets to attend afternoon mass at the official church, whose spire is topped with a large cross that glints in the sunlight. Bright red banners with religious slogans, including the Chinese characters for ‘Emmanuel’, meaning God is with us, adorned many homes. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Underground churches are generally tolerated but closely monitored by authorities. House churches tend to be ignored so long as gatherings are small. While some in Youtong told Reuters that a long-awaited agreement could bring clarity and freedom to practice their religion openly, others said they worry the deal will sow further discord. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Underground churches are generally tolerated but closely monitored by authorities. House churches tend to be ignored so long as gatherings are small. While some in Youtong told Reuters that a long-awaited agreement could bring clarity and freedom to practice their religion openly, others said they worry the deal will sow further discord. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Dong Guanhua, an outspoken priest who sparked controversy in 2016 when he claimed at his underground church that he had been appointed a bishop in a secret ceremony eleven years before, said the deal would push more people to unofficial churches. The Vatican has said that it has not authorized Dong’s ordination and, if it occurred, it was a breach of church law. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Dong Guanhua, an outspoken priest who sparked controversy in 2016 when he claimed at his underground church that he had been appointed a bishop in a secret ceremony eleven years before, said the deal would push more people to unofficial churches. The Vatican has said that it has not authorized Dong’s ordination and, if it occurred, it was a breach of church law. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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The expected deal allowing China to appoint bishops in consultation with the Vatican could also lead to the restoration of full diplomatic ties for the first time in seven decades. Last week, the Vatican said an accord was not imminent but talks were continuing. “The word ‘compromise’ sounds good but to some churchgoers it will sound like you are abandoning your faith,” Dong said. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

The expected deal allowing China to appoint bishops in consultation with the Vatican could also lead to the restoration of full diplomatic ties for the first time in seven decades. Last week, the Vatican said an accord was not imminent but talks were continuing. “The word ‘compromise’ sounds good but to some churchgoers it will sound like you are abandoning your faith,” Dong said. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Portraits of Pope Francis and Julius Jia Zhiguo, Vatican-backed underground bishop of Zhengding diocese, are seen in the state-sanctioned church. Relations among rival churches are cordial, but villagers feel that local schisms could arise from renewed attempts to push together the state-sanctioned church which claims independence from the Vatican and underground ones loyal to Pope Francis. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Portraits of Pope Francis and Julius Jia Zhiguo, Vatican-backed underground bishop of Zhengding diocese, are seen in the state-sanctioned church. Relations among rival churches are cordial, but villagers feel that local schisms could arise from renewed attempts to push together the state-sanctioned church which claims independence from the Vatican and underground ones loyal to Pope Francis. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Father Ju Ruibin of the state Catholic church prepares for the Palm Sunday procession. Exact numbers aren’t available, but villagers suggest that the congregations of the official church and Pei Ronggui’s – a retired bishop recognised by Rome and popular among those suspicious of the state church -- were roughly similar, while Dong attracted slightly fewer. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Father Ju Ruibin of the state Catholic church prepares for the Palm Sunday procession. Exact numbers aren’t available, but villagers suggest that the congregations of the official church and Pei Ronggui’s – a retired bishop recognised by Rome and popular among those suspicious of the state church -- were roughly similar, while Dong attracted slightly fewer. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Pei, who still gives mass and takes confession, was ushered away by a heavyset man wearing a belt with a police emblem when Reuters tried to interview him. Reuters also found their invitation to attend Good Friday mass rescinded and no response from the local government spokesman of vehicles following them. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Pei, who still gives mass and takes confession, was ushered away by a heavyset man wearing a belt with a police emblem when Reuters tried to interview him. Reuters also found their invitation to attend Good Friday mass rescinded and no response from the local government spokesman of vehicles following them. (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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Pei Ziming, a retired wedding officiator, said the real issue is that the Vatican and Beijing have competing ideologies. “They say you can see what truly matters to a country by considering its architecture. In many European countries, the biggest buildings are the churches. In China, the biggest buildings are all banks and government offices, because that’s where real faith lies.” (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Pei Ziming, a retired wedding officiator, said the real issue is that the Vatican and Beijing have competing ideologies. “They say you can see what truly matters to a country by considering its architecture. In many European countries, the biggest buildings are the churches. In China, the biggest buildings are all banks and government offices, because that’s where real faith lies.” (Damir Sagolj / REUTERS)

Updated on Apr 05, 2018 02:25 PM IST
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