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Cold Christmas ahead as funding for new church dries up

Hailun (UCAN): The people of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Hailun city, northeastern Heilongjiang province, may have to celebrate Christmas Mass outdoors this year as funds for the building of a new church have dried up. Acting parish priest, Father Dou Chuanguo, said that fund-raising efforts have come to a halt since the parish priest, Father Shang Kanfa, was arrested after a screwdriver-wielding man died in a heated scuffle on August 26 (Sunday Examiner, September 11). 

The man got into a fight with his estranged wife, a parish community leader, but when the priest tried to intervene the situation escalated.

Father Shang, who has worked in Hailun for 19 years, raised five million yuan ($6.1 million), which went toward the first phase of construction. However, according to Father Dou, the roof and interior will need another 4.5 million yuan ($5.4 million). He said, “it is hard to guarantee that parishioners will have a normal religious life during the six-month-long winter.” He also issued renewed appeals for help over the Internet.

He explained that, over the past few years, there been a sharp rise in the number of parishioners prompting the need for a bigger church.  He added that the new building would hold 3,000 people when completed.

In the meantime, a warehouse is being used as a temporary venue. However, during Christmas more than 3,000 people, many from rural areas, will come to celebrate the season. Father Dou explained that if the new chruch is not finished by then “many will have to brave outside temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, no one has been allowed to see Father Shang except two lawyers hired by his family and several laypeople.

Parishioners plan to submit a petition signed by hundreds of Hailun’s Catholics in support of Father Shang once his case goes to court.

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