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Being a priest in China is difficult, but he’s not afraid

Seminarista de China

Fundación CARF

Marta Santín - published on 06/20/24

Xiaolong Wang, known as Felipe, is a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Beijing (China) who is currently studying in Spain to become a priest in his homeland.

Felipe is 24 years old and, since he was a child, he has felt God calling him to the priesthood. On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, he was admitted to minor holy orders in Bidasoa, Spain.

He comes from a village in northern China (Liuhe) with a very high percentage of Christians. In that area the situation for Catholics is easy. In other parts of the country, though — such as in the south — there are still many challenges for the practice of the Catholic religion and those who believe in God. This remains true despite the rapprochement between the Vatican and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. Felipe explains:

In China we Catholics have suffered a lot. In recent years the relationship has been improving, but much remains to be done. Pope Francis is encouraging a greater rapprochement, but the Chinese government puts obstacles. Some dioceses in southern China have no bishop and there are very few priests. And there are still prohibitions.

It is hard to know real numbers but it’s thought that Catholics in China make up 0.46% of the population, Protestants 2.06%, Muslims 0.50% and Buddhists 8.96%. The number of baptisms ranges between 40,000 and 50,000 faithful each year.

The Catholic Church has existed for years underground, but there is also a parallel government-approved church that ordained clergy without Vatican approval. Many bishops have spent years in prison or had to endure other persecutions.

Educated in the Catholic faith

Xiaolong Felipe had the good fortune of belonging to an archdiocese with a large number of Catholics: more than 50,000. However, he is aware that in order to evangelize one must first internalize the customs of Chinese culture and the particular traditions of each province, and overcome the peculiarities of today’s communist China. 

Both he and his two brothers were brought up in the Catholic faith. At the age of six he already felt the vocation to the priesthood within him.

“I remember one day attending Mass with my mom. I was six years old. I felt so much inner peace, and from that day on I wanted to be a priest. It has always been God’s dream and mine!”

A year later, before he was eight years old, he began serving at the altar helping his parish priest.

However, as a teenager, he began to consider another way of life, such as becoming a music teacher, a passion he loves. But his uncertainty didn’t last long. Another event marked him forever in his vocation:

“I attended and helped as an acolyte at the first Mass of a young priest in the parish of my town. That had an impact on me. Then I realized that I had to continue with my dream, and I entered the minor seminary at the age of 16.”

Evangelization in China

seminarista china

In his opinion, the key to evangelization in China is the good example of the priests.

“First of all prayer to God; then the example of the priests, accompanying the faithful and supporting them. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the holy Rosary are also two indispensable practices to achieve the conversion of my country.”

Felipe greatly admires the martyrs who have sown the seed of evangelization in China. “I know that being a priest in China is very difficult, but I’m not afraid. God will give me grace and the Holy Spirit will guide the faithful of my country,” says Wang.

Sent to Spain by his bishop, he’s preparing himself to be a good priest while studying Ecclesiastical Studies at the University of Navarra, where he receives an integral formation.

His experience in Spain

He admits that the first year in Spain was hard, as he knew absolutely no Spanish. But, thanks to the formators and the rector, along with fellow students and professors, the language is no longer an obstacle. 

“The formation at Bidasoa is very good and the liturgy is impressive. I’m now the seminary organist and I’m very happy.”

He’s also enjoying trips around Spain: Torreciudad, Almeria, Zaragoza, the Javierada … “Pray for me as I do for all the benefactors of the CARF Foundation, so that God, the Lord, will continue to raise up more vocations to the priestly life, especially in China.”

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