China’s official Catholic organizations denied online speculation that family religious gatherings contributed to the latest coronavirus outbreaks in Hebei.
On January 7, the Patriotic Catholic Association of the Gaocheng District in Hebei’s capital Shijiazhuang denounced the rumors that Catholics caused the pandemic to spread in the city.
The statement read, “Online rumors claim that a religious gathering took place in the Catholic Xiaoguozhuang Village in Gaocheng twenty days ago. Many European priests attended the gathering without any precautionary measures. It is believed that these missionaries brought the European virus here…”
As of Sunday, China saw 95 new local COVID-19 infections and 18 new imported positive cases, 82 reported in Hebei, according to the National Health Commission.
The document added, “A WeChat account renamed as ‘Jiyang Folk and Local Specialties’ released the news entitled ‘Gaocheng, Place Where the Epidemic Rose in Shijiazhuang: 15 Churches Scattered’ linked the spread of the situation with the Catholic churches in the district.”
The diocese declared, “Xiaoguozhuang Village, Liujiazuo Village, and Nanqiaozhai Village are not Catholic villages, there are just a few Catholics in them. There are no Catholic prayer places or religious services. All the members attend normal religious activities in the nearby Beiqiao Village. There has been just one believer among the positive cases in Shijiazhuang until today. Having verified the information with two priests of Beiqiaozhai Village, there have been no foreign visitors since last winter. The rumor concerning the religious activities in Xiaoguozhuang attended by many European and American priests is fake news. It is almost impossible for foreigners to enter China. Even if possible, all the people entering the country must undergo a 14-day quarantine in designated hotels and have negative certificates of nucleic acid and IgM anti-body tests.”
On January 8, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and Chinese Catholic Bishops College issued a document that supported the claim. “The misinformation circulated on the Internet that a new COVID-19 epidemic broke out in certain places in Hebei in recent days. The Shijiazhuang Patriotic Catholic Association and the local diocese clarified the situation.”
The government-sanctioned groups added, “Although there was no cluster in the Catholic community, we must be alert and strengthen the prevention and control work.”