Olympic brings spiritual growth to China

Last month, it was announced that two new Protestant churches will be added to the existing eight in Beijing to meet the rising needs of more than 40,000 local believers, which is the first to be built in the capital since the Communist Party took power in 1949. One of the new churches will be built in Chaoyang District of eastern Beijing, and the other in Caoqiao Park of Fengtai District in the south. The two churches will be larger than any existing ones in the city. Costing 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million), each will cover roughly 2,000 square metres and can accommodate 1,500 worshipers.

As the 2008 Olympics approach, religion gets a hand from a government striving to make a good impression on the world, that's why the officially atheist Communist government allows this. "Everything started two years ago when Beijing got the Olympic games." Rev. Chan Kim-kwong , a historian of religion in China explained.

Although the Olympic summer games will last only two weeks, Chinese leaders are acutely aware that the impression the city will make on the world will last much longer. It is very important to build up the image of Beijing as an international city, an open, modern city. The Chinese Catholic Church, which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, plans to build a large national seminary in Beijing and has been giving language training to its clergy so they can celebrate Mass in German, French and other languages.."Chan continued.

Christianity has been growing rapidly in China. Official figures put the number of Protestants at 15 million and Catholics at 10 million. Tens of millions more Christians, including Roman Catholics loyal to the Vatican, belong to unauthorized churches.