China’s ‘apple Catholics’ add spiritual activities to daily routine

Many rural villages in Shaanxi do not have a Catholic parish, and some with churches struggle with sparse attendance.

But the village of Fufengxian, near the town of Baoji, has a population that is more than 80 percent baptized Catholics. When villagers are not tending to their apple orchards, they can be found attending Mass or praying at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.

They call themselves “China’s Hometown of Apple Catholics.”

The official population of Fufengxian stands at a mere 300, but many young adults have migrated to the big cities, so most of those who remain are elderly farmers and young children. About 90 villagers live there permanently, while more than 70 residents are parishioners.

The church was established in 1986, as the Chinese Catholic Church was emerging from decades of communist repression.