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Tricked into losing new church

HONG KONG (UCAN): Parishioners from Xuwan village, Xiantao city, in Hubei province, fear that local authorities will try to demolish a church built only two years ago using what locals describe as an “illegal ruse.”
 
The newer structure was built to replace an older place of worship about 200 metres away that was constructed nearly four decades ago but was recently deemed unsafe for use. A source said the government forced the community to tear down the older building, as local policy dictates that no Chinese city is allowed to have two churches.
 
The officials warned that if it were not razed, no license would be issued for a new church.
 
Local Catholics complied and the older building was bulldozed on April 12.
 
However, the government is still refusing to provide a license for the replacement unless they agree to another provision: in exchange for the license, they must also remove a convent for religious sisters, located in the same neighbourhood.
 
“They told us the convent was dangerous from a structural standpoint,” the source said, on request of anonymity. “But we don’t believe they had any basis to make such a claim. It was just a ruse.”
 
Church officials showed documents proving the convent had been authorised for use, that it complied with local laws and had a valid license renewed in 2018.
 
As a result, they decided to challenge the officials based on the logic that their claims were groundless and unsupported by any evidence.
 
Nonetheless, given the power of the Chinese Communist Party compared to the weakness of both the official and unofficial Church in China, they suspect they will soon have to choose between losing either the convent or the new church.
 
“The convent has played witness to the development of our diocese (over the decades), so we cannot accept its loss,” the source said.
 
“But if our new church is demolished (in addition to its predecessor), our community of 2,000 parishioners will definitely suffer (as we will have nowhere sanctified to pray and hold services),” the source added.
 
Xuwan has a population of just 3,000, over two thirds of whom are Catholic. They also represent 20 per cent of Catholics in the Diocese of Hanyang.
 
Confusingly, the Vatican lists Xuwan under Hanyang, but the Chinese government claims it falls within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Jingzhou. Neither diocese has a bishop.

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