The first Chinese Catholic Church in France was established in the light of the growing Chinese congregation in the country.
On Sunday, the Archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois has consecrated the first Chinese church in France in the capital's south-eastern Chinatown district, according to the Agence France Presse (AFP).
The name of the Church was named Notre-Dame de Chine (Notre-Dame of China), located at the 13th arrondissement (or district) of Paris- the heart of the Chinese district of Paris, sources say. The bilingual dedication service was conducted at 11:00 a.m. in both Chinese and French at the Church and the adjoining Saint-Hippolyte church.
Some 1,300 worshippers, including hundreds of Chinese, have attended the historical dedication service, AFP reported. Archbishop Vingt-Trois, in the homily, commented that the new church has demonstrated "the diversity of Catholicism."
Yesterday’s opening ceremony included a prelude of traditional Chinese lion dance. Upon arrival, the archbishop "awoke" dancers dressed as lions by touching them with a paintbrush, in accordance with a Chinese tradition symbolizing the entry of life to a new a house, according to AFP. Fireworks were let off as well.
In his speech, the Archbishop has highlighted the persecution of Catholics in China. He expected that the persecution would not end as long as underground Catholic churches existed alongside with the state-controlled Church, according to AFP.
Under the religious law in China, only the government-authorized Patriotic Catholic Church is legally recognized. The Government's refusal to allow the government-authorized Patriotic Catholic Church to obey the authority of the Papacy in many fundamental matters of faith and morals has led many Catholics to reject joining the Patriotic Catholic Church. Therefore, many "underground" churches are formed.
According to the latest international religious freedom report published by the U.S. Department of State, the unofficial, Vatican-affiliated Catholic Church claims a membership larger than the 5 million registered with the official Catholic Church. Precise figures are impossible to determine, but Vatican officials have estimated that the country has as many as 10 million Catholics in both the official and unofficial churches. Chinese Catholic sources put the total number at approximately 8 million.
The underground bishops, priests and congregation are often subjected to harassment and imprisonment, the report says.
In France, where the Roman Catholic tradition is built up very well, Chinese Catholics are able to enjoy freedom of religion. According to the World Christian Database, around 76 percent of the 60 million-strong population in France is Roman Catholics. Further sources say there are an estimated 3,000 Chinese Catholics among a Chinese community of between 250,000 and 300,000.
Many Chinese people have migrated to many different parts of the world in the last century because of wars or other social and economic issues. According to a U.K.-based Chinese Christian mission organization the Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM), there is an urgent demand to provide pastoral care to the second or even third generations, who are born in the foreign country and speak mostly the native tongue with a little bit Chinese.
After the dedication service yesterday, a conference with theme "Evangelization today in China and in Paris" was held. The day event was concluded by a Chinese music concert.