Undercover Chinese priest in Europe: There are still priests imprisoned in China

“You’re also aware. If you’ve chosen this path, something can happen to you at any moment.”

This is Fr. Giovanni, and we can’t show his face because he’s Chinese. Nor can we reveal his real name or where he was born. It’s the price he has to pay as a Chinese Catholic priest. He’s now finishing his formation in Europe, still undercover.

FR. GIOVANNI
Chinese priest
“In China, the undercover seminary means it’s unidentifiable. It’s a normal house. It’s not a building built to be a seminary. They are houses offered to us by the faithful. If they have another house and no longer use this old one, they offer it to us for a seminary, but secretly.”

Giovanni changed seminary-houses in China three times in three years. He and his 11 colleagues had to flee before daylight to avoid suspicion by authorities.

FR. GIOVANNI
Chinese priest
“Some faithful have spent some time in jail for offering their houses or assisting the seminary.”

The priest assures there are still priests imprisoned in China and that complete religious freedom is far from being realized.

FR. GIOVANNI
Chinese priest
“There are still some but not many, it depends on each diocese’s situation. Now, there is news about dialogue between authorities, and it seems the situation is more or less calm but, from what I see, it’s not. We can say the situation is always the same. The official Church does have a certain freedom, but it’s limited because it’s completely controlled. You have to do as you’re told.”

During these years, the priest has returned to his country, but never while dressed as a priest, because he is not seen as one by the government. Despite restrictions, Fr. Giovanni hopes to complete his formation to go back to China as soon as possible.

FR. GIOVANNI
Chinese priest
“My colleagues have asked me many times, ‘Why don’t you stay?’ I tell them I’ve come here to study and later return to China because they need me there, not only the faithful. The people also need me because they need help, salvation, Christ’s redemption. You’re also aware. If you’ve chosen this path, something can happen to you at any moment.”

The priest is confident that relations between the Vatican and China could mean greater freedom, although he assures that, far from diminishing faith, difficulties make the country’s Catholics stronger.