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Consipiracies and old churches

HONG KONG (UCAN): Construction work surrounding the church in the parish of St. Francis Xavier in central Shanghai has caused damage to the 164-year-old structure causing cracking in the walls, repairs to which have rendered the building only partly usable at various times and disrupting normal activities.

Some parishioners also believe that the construction companies have caused deliberate damage to the former cathedral of Jiangnan vicariate in an attempt to force the church out of its prime spot so the property can be taken over for development.

Two bloggers in Shanghai even linked the issues faced at St. Francis Xavier to Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who has been under house arrest for the past four years since he resigned from the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

They are urging the authorities to release Bishop Ma so as to allow him to manage the renovation process of the old church and other diocesan affairs.

One person said that Bishop Ma had responded to the blogs in at least two messages on his WeChat account, asking people to stop talking about him in that context.

“The bishop has informed us that those blog articles might be a steam bun dipped in blood (blood sucking),” one said.

The expression implies that the bishop does not want to give the impression that he is mobilising the laity to put pressure on Beijing, which would make his situation more complicated.

Bishop Ma has been confined to Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai since he publicly announced his resignation from the Patriotic Association at his ordination ceremony in July 2012.

In April this year he dramatically recanted his resignation, sending shockwaves through the Church. In June, the bishop also stunned people when, via his blog, he sang the praises of the Patriotic Association.

But parishioners at St. Francis Xavier’s suggested that the contractors are timing their noisy work on the neighbouring properties to coincide with Masses in the church, causing disruption to normal schedules. The work has been ongoing since 2014.

“During Sunday Masses, construction around the church really causes a disturbance,” one parishioner said. “You can hear the noise and feel the obvious vibration made by the construction machines.”

Renovations to fix the damage caused by the surrounding construction are expected to take two years. Masses are going to have to be held at the nearby parish of St. Joseph during that time.

Parishioners say that the cleared land surrounding the church makes it look like a nail house—a single owner who refuses to sell up to make way for developers.

Because of the construction, some parishioners believe there is collusion between local government officials and land developers.

“They suspect the developer is destroying the church intentionally by putting the piling just a few metres away from the main church building,” one person said.

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