The twin spires of the Church in this southern Chinese village was Packed with more than thousands of Catholics observing good Friday, but the Bishop, who tends to the meeting was not among them. Just a day earlier, the government agents took it.
Bishop GUO Xijin is located in the centre of the negotiations between the Vatican and the atheistic Communist party, which is probably the Internet-who appoints bishops in China. This step would be historic, uniting Catholics in the country for the first time with Beijing and the Holy see severed ties nearly seven decades ago.
In the pre-dawn mass on Thursday, GUO called on parishioners in the Church of Saiqi to be brave and keep faith. «Full of comfort and hope, we are inspired to more courageously face challenges and to offer your love to God,» he said.
Not long after, government agents arrived and a second time during Holy week took go over what they described as a «vacation» is a euphemism in China for an enforced disappearance.
For many years, Catholics in China were divided between those who follow the sanctions of the state of the Church under the authority of the Vatican and those who attend clandestine churches that swear allegiance to the Pope. GUO is the head of one of these underground diocese.
Under the deal being discussed, the Vatican, is expected to admit seven Beijing-the Bishop has not chosen a Pope, and one underground Bishop would step aside.
Supporters say the deal will help the Holy see achieve your long-term goals-to bring all of China’s 12 million Catholics allegedly under the wing of the Pope.
Others, including prominent Hong Kong cardinal, accused the Vatican from the sale of its followers to an authoritarian regime.
The expulsion of th serves as a reminder of the power of the state, which is committed to the devotion centre national ruling party.
It also highlights how high-level discussion in the marble pillared splendor of the Vatican and in a fenced paddock, Beijing may have implications in such areas as agriculture Saiqi for future generations.
The Church of GUO sitting on top of a gentle hill overlooking the winding streets of a small hairdressing and noodle joints. Parishioners say they don’t know what to expect from the transaction they discuss mostly in a whisper between morning and evening services.
For many decades, they say, they have the opportunity to peacefully practice their religion, despite the fact that under the watchful eye of the state. But this is not always the case.
The story of a dark period for the Catholic Church in China during the cultural revolution, Mao Zedong has been told and retold to the youth in the parish. They have heard stories about older relatives with their Bibles torn up, being marched through the streets while shaming sessions, public or sent to labor camps.
«This generation went through a lot,» said Huang Weiping, 37, who manages the store, rosaries and portraits of Joseph and Mary.
He said that his cousin was predecessor, Bishop Huang Shoucheng, who spent many years in prison.
Lin Qigua, and 55-year-old parishioner, said the gap between the official and the underground Church will be difficult.
«Our parents always told us that the Catholic Church comes from Rome, and then suddenly the Communist party comes out with his own Church,» said Lin. «There is a conflict here, isn’t it? Our ancestors sacrificed so much — their blood shed for nothing?»
With the state support of the Chinese Church at a recent conference stressed the need to remain independent from the Vatican and «Sinicize» self — code for adoption by the leadership of the party and denying the external communication.
The Vatican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the content of talks with China, there were disadvantages of a possible transaction. The official said that it would restrict the activities of the Holy see in China and to cede power in Beijing to appoint bishops, the Pope was able to accomplish what is a papal veto.
State administration of China for religious Affairs refused to give an interview.
Underground churches were in regular communication with the Chinese authorities, since 1990-ies, and officials even ask the Church for help with local disputes, said the monk, Peng Zhenkang, the priest in the parish.
«Here, residents will listen to the clergy,» said Peng.
He said, GUO was often taken to «sensitive» periods, and that the Bishop did not resist. This time, Peng said his expulsion was, of course, is associated with the Vatican negotiations.
Contacted by phone Thursday, the priest asked the authorities to leave Saiqi together with GUO said that they are just coming off the train to Xiamen, a city more than 160 miles (255 kilometers)
«It’s uncomfortable for him to talk right now. I’m sorry,» the monk Xu wenming said before hanging up.
The Vatican official said that under the proposed deal with China, GUO would become a Bishop, an official, government-recognized Bishop Jean power, but will remain in the care of the congregation he was leading. The official said, the consent.
Another Vatican-appointed leader, who will be affected by the Internet is the 88-year-old Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, head of rural communities in Guangdong province is weathering the Church with stucco, built over a hundred years ago.
Chuang is described as a pillar of the Catholic community in the village, built in Jiexi County. For many decades, he educated generations of Catholics and often manages the blessing over a newborn or newlyweds, dead or dying, his congregants say.
The Bishop refused to speak with reporters outside his Church.
«Please forgive me,» Zhuang said, bowing in apology.
While several parishioners Zhuang expressed his admiration for the Bishop’s generosity and dedication, no one was sure that they would object to his departure, if the Vatican ordered it.
«We will all stay in the Church regardless of how the negotiations go,» said Juan V., a descendant of three generations of Catholics, whose hands are painted with biblical images adorn the Church nave. «We are all deeply worried faith.»
The proposed replacement of the Zhuang is the Bishop Huang bingzhang, together with which Beijing was elevated to the rank of «illegally» in 2011 without the approval of the Vatican. Chuang declined to be interviewed.
One of his priests, Rev. Xu Jihua, said that Juan should be dedicated to the Vatican. He said that the cessation of discord between the Vatican and Beijing would be good for Catholics in China.
«Nobody hopes to live a life of faith in these abnormal conditions,» said Xu.
Then, repeating the belief expressed in the underground and state-sanctioned walks so the priest said: «the essence of faith, in the end, is that it exists in the world. If faith is opaque and closed doors that there is darkness».
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.