The district government in China's Henan province has removed all crosses at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also known as the Shangqiu South Church. A priest, who witnessed the crosses being taken down, took a video and shared the disconcerting footage online.
A group of unidentified men unexpectedly entered the church's property and cut off the power last Friday, March 9. They then started tearing down the large crosses at the rooftop of the cathedral, within the premises of the smaller church and at the gate tower. The men removed at least 10 crucifixes.
Members of the church prayed outside as the men took out the crosses. Some called the police, but the authorities detained the priests and took their cellphones instead of arresting the intruders. Reports revealed that the men had originally intended to occupy the church's property but decided to take down the crosses instead.
Though the incident was a first for Henan province, it followed a string of persecutions among Christians in China as the government continued to enforce a tight control over religious organizations. Shangqiu South Church, however, was a government-sanctioned church, thus the people wondered why it was targeted.
A priest known only as Father John stated that the intruders might have been carrying out the provisions in the newly revised rules on religious affairs. These men, however, must have misunderstood how these regulations should be executed, similar to what has happened in other provinces.
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, returned to Shangqiu South Church the following day to install new but smaller crosses. International Christian Concern voiced its concern over the rising incident of Christian prosecution in China.
"The crackdown on churches used to be targeted mostly at underground communities, but we are now seeing increasing assaults and harassment on state-sanctioned churches as well," ICC Regional Manager Gina Go stated. "Please pray for the Church in China to persevere despite growing persecution."