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Authorities kept from demolishing shrine

HONG KONG (UCAN): Authorities in the Diocese of Xiwanzi, in China’s Hebei province, were prevented from demolishing statues at Shengdiliang Shrine on May 13 by local Catholics who slept at the site to protect them.
The shrine has representations of Jesus the Good Shepherd; Lazarist Bishop Joseph-Martial Mouly, the first bishop of Xiwanzi; and Lazarist Father Mathew Shi, the first parish priest of Xiwanzi Church.
As of May 15, about 20 people were still guarding the hillside shrine and being monitored by authorities.  
Mary, a local Catholic, said that a parish priest had installed the statues more than 10 years ago and people make a pilgrimage there every Lent. She believes that Catholics face greater persecution in Hebei, which has the largest Catholic population in China with about 1.5 million faithful. 
“I believe they may demolish the shrine bit by bit,” she said.
A cross outside Shenliuzhuang Catholic Church in the Diocese of Handan, was removed by authorities between May 6 and 7. Notices had been posted in many of Handan’s parishes saying “minors are forbidden to enter and communists are not allowed to believe in religion.”
One notice said that churches, crosses or name signs without permits must be demolished. It is believed that 24 churches on a list for demolition.
Another source said that in the past, there weren’t many requirements for church construction—only the submission of a land registration document and approval from the religious affairs department was needed. However, authorities now other require procedures such as applying for construction permits.
“How can you ask a church that is already built to follow the new regulations?” he asked, saying it is only an excuse for the government to eliminate the China Church.

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