Chapel for the Chinese Olympic village

Does anyone really doubt that the way Beijing has been dealing with the Vatican is somehow entangled with the upcoming Olympics?

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing Games organizers say they plan to build a multi-faith worship center in the Olympic Village, a striking move in a country that heavily restricts all religious activity.

"All will be arranged in accordance with the practices … adopted by other Olympic host cities," Liu Bainian, vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said in the official China Daily newspaper.

Liu said Chinese Catholics were preparing to welcome visitors to churches in Beijing and the six other host cities with multi-lingual priests.

The Communist Party-controlled association governs China’s Catholic churches, while other state-controlled bodies keep watch over the country’s Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants.

Worship in non-state recognized churches and temples is illegal and other religions have no official recognition.

Here is how China Daily puts it.

Church to be built in Olympic village
By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-04 07:19


A temporary church will be set up in the Olympic Village during the 2008 Games for Catholic athletes, and all churches in Beijing will be open to Catholic tourists, a senior official has said.

The Beijing diocese is training priests fluent in foreign languages to celebrate Mass during the upcoming Games, said Liu Bainian, vice-president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

"All will be arranged in accordance with the practices adopted by other Olympics host cities," he said.

According to Games organizers, a religious service center will be set up in the Olympic Village with professional religious personnel providing services to meet the needs of athletes from various religious convictions.

Athletes and those who accompany them can enjoy different dishes specially made in accordance with their religious beliefs, the organizers said.

Religious services and information will be available in Beijing as well as the six other co-host cities.

A total of 60 volunteers from the five major religions in China – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity and Catholicism – recently attended a three-day training session organized by the Beijing municipal administration of religious affairs for providing religious services during the Games.

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  1. Richard says:

    “The Beijing diocese is training priests fluent in foreign languages to celebrate Mass during the upcoming Games”

    – pity they aren’t training them in Latin, so that everyone can participate.

  2. Paul Stokell says:

    the five major religions in China – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity and Catholicism

    Oh, terrific…score another one for the “Catholicism ain’t Christianity” ranks. Let’s hope the folks at Get Religion finds this and gets medieval on this latest example of the Last Acceptable Prejudice.

  3. DoB says:

    How is the counterfeiting problem in China now? Any improvement? :-)

  4. danphunter1 says:

    Correct me if I am incorrect, but I am under the impression that quite a number of Chinese priests still retain the knowledge of the Classical Rite, since the patriotic church used it into the 1990’s.
    If this is the case then the Olympics would be a wonderful setting in which to offer the Classical Rite, what with it transcending national boundaries.
    This would also be an ideal opportunity to propagate the faith amongst many who have not been exposed to the Church.
    God bless you.

  5. jh says:

    Father or anybody.

    What does this do in real terms as to the Catholic that will be at the olympics. I guess Ineed to go to look at the letter again the Pope did. However could Catholics in good standing attend Masses there if there are priests from the China controlled Church

  6. Eric says:


    What is the status of priestly orders in the Patriotic Church? Shouldn’t Catholic Olympians be warned about attending these Masses? Could priests be sent along with the various delegations?

  7. catholiclady says:

    I just hope all the venues and buildings are “unleaded”.

  8. jaykay says:

    The design of the temporary church is, erm, interesting, isn’t it? Looking at the picture of the facade (what presumably could be called the west front?) it certainly is far removed from your generic modern “worship space” :) Wonder what the rest of the design is like? It could well turn out to be a “worship space” inside with a retro facade tacked-on. Potemkin church, sort of thing.

  9. Tim H says:


    The patriotic association should be treated in the same manner as one would treat teh Russian Orthodox Church when in Russia. Without access to a Sunday liturgy in union with Rome, or confession faculties of such a priest, the local schismatic, though apostolically valid liturgy and presbyterate will suffice, and current canons allow for this.
    And the orders of the priests are recognized as Valid but Illicit by Rome.

  10. AlanM says:

    Tim H –

    You really, really ought to read the Pope’s letter to China’s Catholics before you start spouting off on the Chinese Church. The “local schismatic, though apostolically valid liturgy and presbyterate”??? What on Earth are you talking about?

    The Pope’s letter explicitly repudiates the notion that the Chinese Church is schismatic, and instead emphasizes the unity of its two faces – open and underground – as well as its unity with the universal church. The letter recognizes a “small number” of bishops who are not in unity with Rome. As is, well over 90% of China’s bishops are in unity with Rome (open and underground).

    As for your assertion that “orders of the priests are recognized as Valid but Illicit by Rome” – this is preposterous, verging on slanderous. China’s priests – open and underground – have valid, LICIT orders, and nobody has suggested otherwise.

    Read the letter, TimH, then get back to us on what it really says.

  11. Miguel says:

    That is a nice picture of the Church in Beijing, I believe. I was just there a couple of months ago, and visited that Church. It was an interesting experience. I think that Alan M’s view of the Patriotic Church in China is somewhat optimistic. Although the Pope’s letter has somewhat muddied the waters, there is no doubt that the CPA is formally schismatic, somewhat like the Church in England after Henry VIII broke with the true church. On the other hand, the Pope’s letter did say that it would be alright for true underground Catholics to attend Mass or get sacraments from priests or Bishops that were back in union with the Pope, but verifying that might be difficult. One chapel (open) I visited had a photo of the Vatican and the Pope in front of it – I assume that that chapel considered itself in union with Rome.

  12. stike says:

    yeah, alanM’s take is wrong. I have read the pope’s letter in entirety and he certainly is not embracing the church founded by atheistic communists 50 years ago. alan, don’t be so arrogant either. it sounds like you want to take a swing at TimH. Calm down. Everything will be okay.

  13. GlobalJim says:

    Actually, there’s quite a bit of truth to what Alan has to say. Even if he says it with a bit too much, ah, vigor.

    The Patriotic Association is not the same as the Open Church. It’s not even a church. It’s a government agency that supervises the church. That’s a mistake that many people make, and it’s an easy one to make, but it’s a mistake, nonetheless. Of course, church buildings need to be registered with the Association, and some priests, bishops and religious choose to register with it. But nobody is required to belong to it, anymore. Obviously, it has a heavy hand, and it makes life difficult in many places. But the situation is also much improved. The Pope’s letter refers to the Association as “desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church.” Now, this can be interpreted, I suppose, as suggesting that it is schismatic, except that the Pope never says that and, more importantly, he clarifies his description by noting that the Association has proposed an independent Church (that is, he explicitly recognizes that one does not yet exist): “therefore the proposal for a Church that is ‘independent’ of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

    This is pretty well established stuff. I’ve lived in China, and almost all of the Open Church have photos of the Pope, as well as prayers for him and the Universal Church. It’s too bad that this message doesn’t get out more. I’m not saying that things are great in Chinese Catholicism, but it’s no help to anyone to pretend that they are worse than they are, too.

    There are a couple of great blogs that cover these issues. A lady in Shenzhen talks about life in her open parish church in a blog called Ambrose-a-rama (silly name, but interesting subject matter). And the journalist Adam Minter covers some of the deeper political stuff related to the church in China on his Shanghai Scrap blog. I’ve learned a lot from both. Worth reading.

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