China, nearly 50,000 baptisms in the Catholic Church in 2018

The "Faith" Institute reports that last year more than 48,000 Catholics were baptized. A partial figure, which, however, seems to mark a trend reversal when compared to the analyses that claimed a reduction in the celebrations within Chinese communities between 2010 and 2014.

Mar 09, 2019

By Gianni Valente
At least 48,365 baptisms were celebrated in churches in the People’s Republic of China in the year 2018. This is the number reported in the official publication of the Faith Institute for Cultural Studies, based in Shijiazhuang, the capital of the Chinese province of Hebei. The figures bring together data from 104 Catholic dioceses recognised by the Chinese authorities, scattered in more than 30 national provincial divisions. These data appear in substantial continuity with those of the previous year, when the Faith Institute had certified the celebration of 48,556 baptisms in the Chinese Catholic communities.

Also in 2018, as in previous years, the largest number of new Catholics baptised reported by the Faith Institute (almost 13,000) was concentrated in the Chinese province of Hebei with other remarkable percentages of new baptisms celebrated in the Catholic communities of the provinces of Shanxi (4124), Sichuan (3707) and Shandong (2914). Faith Institute also reported on baptisms celebrated in Catholic communities in the regions where Muslim populations and ethnic minority groups are found, such as Tibet (8 baptisms), Hainan (35), Qinghai (43) and Xinjiang (57).

The data on the baptisms of new Chinese Catholics — provided each year by the Institute around the Chinese New Year — are however partial and approximate. They do not manage to take into account all those celebrated in many Catholic communities present in the most isolated regions, nor all those administered in the so-called “underground” communities, those not registered with the Chinese apparatus that apply the governmental religious policy.

Nevertheless, at the moment these data represent the most useful yet partial instrument to try to record year by year at least the trends of growth, stagnation or decrease of Catholics in Chinese society. The dossier on the Chinese Catholic population published in the spring of 2016 in the magazine Tripod by Anthony Lam Sui-ki, a researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, also made reference to them.

The annual reports on the new Catholics baptised provided year by year by the Faith Institute from 2000 onwards seem to have a fluctuating trend, with a growth recorded until 2010, and a significant decline that would have marked the years from 2010 to 2015. The last two years, with the data provided by the Faith institute, which claims nearly 50 thousand new baptisms, indicate a new trend reversal when compared to the declining trend of the five-year period 2010-2015. Furthermore, several observers agree on the decline in priestly and religious vocations in the Catholic Church in China with respect to the eighties and nineties, which had registered an increase in seminarians and novices. There were 2400 seminarians in 1996, while in 2014 they were estimated at 1260. --Vatican Insider

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