Christianity in Asia has its roots in the very inception of Christianity , which originated from the life and teachings of Jesus in 1st century Roman Judea. Christianity then spread through the missionary work of his apostles , first in the Levant and taking roots in the major cities such as Jerusalem and Antioch. According to tradition, further eastward expansion occurred via the preaching of Thomas the Apostle , who established Christianity in the Parthian Empire Iran and India. The first nations to adopt Christianity as a state religion were Armenia in and Georgia in By the 4th century, Christianity became the dominant religion in all Asian provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.
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- This communion of churches comprises the Latin Church or the Roman or Western Church as well as 23 Eastern Catholic Churches , canonically called sui juris churches, each led by either a patriarch or a major archbishop in full communion with the Holy See.
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- Christianity in Asia has its roots in the very inception of Christianity , which originated from the life and teachings of Jesus in 1st century Roman Judea.
Now, a new clash is resonating in this rural region, known as Mindong. This time, it centers on talks between China and the Vatican to bridge their historical differences by settling the thorniest issue dividing them: control of the bishops and priests who run the Roman Catholic Church in China. The basic plan would give the Vatican a formal role, and possibly even veto power, in how clergy are appointed in China.
That would be an unusual concession by Beijing, which is deeply suspicious of foreign interference. But the people most affected by these proposed changes — residents in places like Mindong — say they feel a sense of powerlessness, as if awaiting a storm that they cannot control. Many are less concerned about disputes over the clergy than about a hollowing out of Catholic life in the Chinese countryside.
The Vatican has already asked Guo Xijin, the underground bishop in Mindong, to yield his leadership of an estimated 70, Catholics to a government-appointed cleric who commands about 10, followers — a huge concession to Beijing. Bishop Guo, 59, who has been a priest in Mindong since , said in an interview that he was willing to accede if it helped heal the long split between the underground and government churches.
But he added that it would not address larger problems that are diminishing Catholicism here. Bishop Guo was referring to the fact that while Catholicism is strongest in poorer, rural parts of China, the countryside is emptying out. A few decades ago 80 percent of Chinese lived in rural areas; today only half do. In areas like Mindong, that has meant a collapse of churchgoing.
Bishop Guo estimates that more than a third of local Catholics have left Mindong to find work elsewhere. Almost all young people are gone, leaving villages dotted with churches used only on a rotating basis by a dwindling elderly population.
According to surveys of the official and underground churches by Anthony Lam , a researcher with the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, the total number of Catholics in China peaked around at 12 million and has since declined to 10 million. That makes Catholicism the smallest major religious group in China, and the only one that is shrinking — even as other faiths, especially Buddhism and Protestantism, have grown rapidly amid a nationwide religious revival.
Visitors to the Bishop Bai Cave near Mr. Many are migrants working in cities like Shanghai. In the days before the Chinese New Year, they come home to see their parents and visit holy sites like the cave, where a Dominican friar hid from Qing dynasty soldiers in the s before being executed. But few of them are practicing Catholics any more, and their own children are growing up without the faith. There are Catholic churches in the cities but they seldom reach out to migrants.
Lin Gang, 36, who left Mindong to open a shop in Changzhou, a prosperous city on the Yangtze River, said he rarely had time for church and that almost none of his neighbors there are Catholic. The Qing emperor banned Christianity for about a century before Western powers forced the dynasty to let missionaries in again. The new government also expelled most foreigners from China, decapitating the Catholic Church, which had relied on foreigners to run its schools, orphanages, seminaries and religious orders.
Catholicism survived as a clan-based, rural religion without its old missionizing impulse. Many worshipers resisted. They boycotted the government church in favor of underground churches led by clergy members whom they elected. Over time, the Vatican approved most of these locally appointed clergy. That created two Catholic lineages in China: those appointed by Beijing and those by the Vatican. This is the rift that is the focus of the current negotiations.
But the picture is more complicated than it seems. Although some clergy have been detained and face harassment, others mostly operate in the open. In many places, underground Catholics have built their own churches, sometimes huge cathedrals, without government interference.
Bishop Guo, for example, lives in a seven-story residence next to a twin-spired church clad in white tiles. Mindong is dotted with dozens of these churches, many of them with soaring spires, chapels, residences and nunneries, all of them technically illegal. Moreover, many of the churches received construction permits with the help of Zhan Silu, the government-appointed bishop to whom the Vatican has asked Bishop Guo to cede his position.
Bishop Zhan declined to be interviewed, but local Catholics say he signed off on the permits to reach out to underground believers. During his time in the region, he said, he found that the unofficial clergy often gets along fine with the local authorities. Tensions arise when one side pushes the other. Recently, the pressure has come from Beijing, which has adopted new regulations that are meant in part to curb underground churches. Many feel they should be consulted on the appointment of their spiritual leader — an issue that could come up in other Chinese dioceses where the future of as many as 30 underground bishops is uncertain.
One lay nun whose order has deep roots in Mindong said Bishop Zhan would have difficulty running the diocese because most worshipers are in the underground church and support Bishop Guo. Still, she said that if the Vatican recognized Bishop Zhan, she would obey. Though weakened by migration and buffeted by change, Mindong remains a place where one can still sense the world of the Dominican friars who first brought Catholicism to these hilly shores in the s — and the powers of faith that can outlast politics.
In front of his grave, Wu Saiqing, 49, was sleeping on a stone bed. Locals believe that doing so cures illnesses, and so Ms. Wu was there for a midday nap, hoping to improve her health. Two of her siblings serve the official church, one as a nun and one as a priest. But she attends an underground church. Wu said. Log In.
Retrieved 29 January In other projects Wikimedia Commons. Note: The Pew methodology produced an estimated world Catholic population of 1. Russia details. Catholic Church in South America. Nation states use media laws to silence independent media and independent voices. He later returned home with various religious texts and baptized many of his fellow countrymen.
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Even if many Asians do know the name of the pope, few of them know what it is that he represents. However, at the end of , the continent seemed to be moving into the focus of the Vatican. In December, Benedict surprised many by hailing the new Communist leadership of China.
He received a high-ranking Vietnamese politician at the beginning of this year. The pope addressed the issue of freedom of religious practice in Asia's Communist nations. He saw religious freedom as an important component of a just society. Social and political justice have great significance in Asia.
Churches often stand up for the rights of the poor and take care of social outcasts. In India, for example, the church seeks to protect the Dalit, or "untouchable," caste. Because of this role, many in Asia would be keen to see a pope who addresses social injustice, growing poverty, racism and discrimination and who also takes a leading role when it comes to solving these social problems. Another important issue is dialogue between religions, especially in countries where Catholics belong to the minority.
Where these issues are concerned, the Catholic Church has so far been too cautious, complains Ignatius Sandyawan Sumardi, a Catholic priest from Indonesia. The Pope has been too preoccupied with the formal, dogmatic side of faith, Sandywan Sumardi believes. It is not very likely that the next pope will come from Asia. However, Catholics in the Philippines, for example, harbor the hope that the Archbishop of Manila himself might be a likely candidate.
He is close to the Vatican and is a close advisor to Pope Benedict. Many Asians are convinced that the clergy in these regions have a far better idea about the realities faced by people in their everyday life than the European candidates.
The majority of the Catholic cardinals now hail from Europe. Some critics argue that the Church appoints too many Europeans to the influential posts, even as the number of Latin American Catholics grows steadily.
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Deutsche Welle. Audiotrainer Deutschtrainer Die Bienenretter. Some in Asia harbor hopes that the next pope will be a Filipino. Critics charge Vatican with Eurocentrism The majority of the Catholic cardinals now hail from Europe.
Vatican challenges Beijing over bishops The Vatican has condemned the appointment of a Chinese Catholic bishop without its approval, amid news that another newly-ordained bishop - who has the Pope's blessing - had been detained in a seminary in China. Date Related content.
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