Christmas Midnight Mass for a Fee in Beijing

December 13, 2004

According to AsiaNews, the Catholic Patriotic Association will collect an admission fee of 50 yuan from worshippers who wish to attend Midnight Mass at the Beijing cathedral on Christmas eve. A shock to Catholic sensibilities, Bishop Fu Tieshan and the Catholic Patriotic Association evidently made the decision to charge the fee, which can be from 1/6 to 1/8 of a Chinese pensioner’s monthly income. The Patriotic Association justifies the fee on the grounds of maintaining public order and security, since the Mass has drawn a very large group of worshippers in recent years. But many believe the CPA has instituted the fee as a way to prevent non-Christians from attending the Mass who are interested in learning about Christianity, particularly non-Christian university students. Chinese religious authorities long have collected fees from those visiting religious sites -- for example, from non-Tibetans visiting Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, but in this case both Catholics and non-Catholics will have to pay the fee. The decision also contravenes Canon law.