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Prayer rally after desecration banned

HANDAN (AsiaNews): Police and the Religious Affairs Bureau in Handan, Hebei province, prevented the local Catholic communities from gathering for a day of prayer and fasting after the tabernacle of the church was desecrated on June 3.

The church had been burgled and the tabernacle broken into. Hosts were found scattered on the ground outside the building.

Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai called for a prayer rally, but when people began arriving from other districts the police blocked their way and placed the homes of some of the priests under surveillance.

They said that the Church did not have permission to hold a rally and so the gathering was illegal. Two other churches in the area were desecrated on May 26 and 27.

On June 3, the diocese launched a novena of prayer and penance with Eucharistic adoration as a sign of the high honour in which the people hold the Eucharist.

The people were asking for forgiveness for not watching over their churches and preserving their dignity. A day of prayer and fasting was scheduled to take place at the church in Xiao Diba.The police had originally been called to investigate the break in, but found that the people were deeply hurt and eager to gather to pray together. Fearing possible riots, public security was called in and the gathering was banned.

A 19-year-old suspect by the name of Chen Jingen has been apprehended.

Bishop Yang was forced to cancel all public gatherings. Instead, he asked the people to pray and do penance at home.

“That the police and public safety personnel are afraid of a gathering for prayer and penance is really laughable,” one local Catholic said.

 

“It is true that we’re in the period around June 3 (anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre), but the police neuroses always results in an attack on religious freedom.”

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