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Outside cities, Chinese grandparents pass on faith to their grandchildren


  • A girl looks at a Bible during Mass in 2016 at a Beijing cathedral. As young people move to cities, Catholic grandparents in rural areas are passing on the faith to their grandchildren. (CNS photo/How Hwee Young, EPA)
  • An elderly man prays during Mass in 2007 in Shanghai. As young people move to cities, Catholic grandparents in rural areas are passing on the faith to their grandchildren. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

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HONG KONG (CNS) -- Every evening, no matter how busy or tired she may be, Yiu reads the Bible at home to her 7-year-old granddaughter. Sometimes, parishioners from Changzhi Diocese in north-central China's Shanxi province, come and join her, reports ucanews.com.

Changzhi Diocese has 80 churches and 37 prayer houses for its 60,000 Catholics. Among them, only four are in cities, 18 are in suburban areas and the rest in rural zones.

Local people do not feel it is an exaggeration to tell visitors that one can find an old church in almost any village that has Catholics living there.

However, in the past two decades, young and middle-aged villagers have moved to find better opportunities in the cities. Their participation in church activities also shifted from the rural church to the city, reports ucanews.com.

Shanxi is one of the handful provinces in China with more than 200,000 Catholics. Numerous Catholic villages can be found in this rural area, where the faith has been passed down the generations since Franciscan missionaries introduced Catholicism in 1716.

Now, the province's historic rural churches are mostly used by the elderly and children.

"Some younger Catholics participate in religious activities in the cities, but some are affected by secularization and stopped going to church. It is tough for them to maintain their faith, let alone pass it on to the next generation," said Father Shen Xuezhong of St. Stephen's Church.

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