China Orders Register Of Poor Catholics In Henan

A priest in China's Henan province claims to have received a notice from municipal authorities requesting churches in the province gather statistics on the backgrounds of their congregations, especially those from poor families.

But he is refusing to cooperate out of fear that anyone named in the register could be barred from receiving state subsidies as punishment for practicing their faith.

"This is totally unreasonable. I suspect their hidden agenda may be to cancel people’s low-income subsidies," said the man, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals from the state.

China has forged an uneasy truce with the Vatican in recent years despite the Communist country being officially atheist. Pew Institute figures suggest it now has a population of 10 million Catholics with 10 percent concentrated in Henan, considered the cradle of Chinese civilization.

"Now we just have to wait for the inspection team to come and see what they say before we determine our next move," added the clergyman, an open-church priest who serves in Luoyang Diocese of Sanmenxia City.

He expressed concern about what the government was planning to do with this data, part of a newly launched "special project."

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