A bishop in China has asked Catholics to avoid public gatherings despite decreasing coronavirus infections but cautioned against a new wave of unacceptable online prayer programs.
Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan particularly warned against the preaching of one priest, Father Fei Zhisheng, who maintains that illness is a result of sin.
“Some of the teachings of Father Fei are not in line with the Catholic faith, and everyone is reminded to stop sharing information about Father Fei,” Bishop Fang said.
Father Fei of Liaoning in northeast China specializes in training church ministers. In 2007, he founded a retreat group and trained preachers across the country.
Father Joseph, a catechism researcher in Jiangsu province, praised Bishop Fang for taking a strong stand against the priest. “Our Catholic faith is not a superstition. So it is right and necessary for us to discern information and remind our members to stay away from misleading teachings,” he said.
Cyberspace in China has been flooded with broadcasts of various faiths since December as people started home-based prayers to avoid gatherings as Covid-19 spread after first being reported in China’s Wuhan city.
According to China’s National Health Commission, the number of fresh infections and deaths dropped to a new low on March 12. Only 11 people died that day, the lowest since late January, it said
In Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus, cases have fallen to single digits, it said.
Catholic leaders said that projecting illness as a result of sin will end up putting the Catholic faith in a poor light, particularly at a time of a pandemic like coronavirus.
Paul Jia, an evangelist from Shandong province, said Father Fei is talking about family healing and Buddhism, both of which have nothing to do with the Catholic faith.Father Zhang, a parish priest, told UCA News that Father Fei had once preached in his parish when he emphasized miraculous cures rather than evangelization.
“As disciples of Jesus, we are to follow him on earth and live a good life here,” Father Zhang said.
Wang Meng, who has participated in a training camp run by Father Fei, told UCA News that “some people who experience healing become believers. But when they fall ill again, their faith is shaken and they leave the Church.”