The petition has been signed by over 1,000 people

An online petition opposing a deal between the Chinese government and the Vatican was subject to a cyber attack on February 14.

According to a statement from the group Free Catholics in China, a denial-of-service (DDOS) attack on its website meant it did not resume normal service until the following day.

The group said: “We will not be cowed into silence by such attack, and we will never stop voicing out for the Church.”

Chinese Catholics are split between those in the “underground” Church who are loyal to the Pope and the government-backed Catholic Patriotic Association, which appoints bishops without Rome’s approval.

An open letter published on the website is undersigned by named Catholics in Hong Kong, the US and UK.

“We are deeply worried that the (proposed) deal would create damages that cannot be remedied.”

It censures the appointment of seven bishops by the Chinese state, not the Pope, adding that the bishops’ “moral integrity is questionable”.

As of last week, a petition attached to the letter had been signed by 1,600 people.