A Vibrant Chinese Christian Community
It is impossible to say how many Christians there are in China today, but no-one denies the numbers are exploding.
The government says 25 million, 18 million Protestants and six million Catholics. Independent estimates all agree this is a vast underestimate. A conservative figure is 60 million. There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.
The new converts can be found from peasants in the remote rural villages to the sophisticated young middle class in the booming cities.
The officially sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association appoints its own bishops and is not allowed to have any dealings with the Vatican, though Catholics are allowed to recognise the spiritual authority of the Pope.
There is a larger Catholic underground church, supported by the Vatican. Inch by inch, the Vatican and the government have been moving towards accommodation. Most bishops are now recognised by both, with neither side admitting the greater sovereignty of the other.
The official Protestant Church is growing faster than Catholicism.
Since the 1980s, when religious belief was again permitted, the official Churches have gradually created more space for themselves.
They report to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). They are forbidden to take part in any religious activity outside their places of worship and sign up to the slogan, “Love the country – love your religion.”
For More Christians in China