Tens of thousands of Chinese were to be baptized Catholics on Easter Sunday in mainland China, the country with a quarter of the world's population, while just 50 years ago the Communists had ordered the complete purge of any religions and the indoctrination of atheism in its citizens.
Last year, more than 22,104 Chinese were baptized on Easter Sunday, the day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to Catholic news agency Fides, citing statistics collected by the Study Centre of Faith in the Chinese province of Hebei, which borders Beijing.
In Hong Kong, which has more than 360,000 Catholics, there were 3,500 baptisms.
While some claim that China has over 100 million Christians, the official figures for Catholics are around 12 million, about half of whom attend the government’s “patriotic” church, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, while the others follow the Pope, whom the Chinese government doesn’t recognize as head of China’s Catholics, and worship in unofficial churches.
Shortly after the 1949 Communist revolution, mainland China has cut ties with the Vatican, who has maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, an island where the Nationalists fled, for more than seventy years.
Many Catholics in Chinese mainland, including priests, “look both ways,” listening to the state church and to the Pope, according to International Herald Tribune.
The numbers of Chinese being baptized on Easter Sunday appears to be growing. In 2008, Fides reported that nearly 14,000 people were baptized that year.