Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, in southwestern China, is about 1,800 kilometers southwest to Beijing. The diocese, based in Chengdu, covers four cities (Chengdu, Deyang, Guangyuan, and Mianyang) and 37 districts and counties, in an area of 54,900 sq. kilometers.
Chengdu which once was a city of 5 million people, has 9,136,000 residents as of 2020. Most of the residents are ethnic Han people, who contribute to 99.5% of its total population. There are 55 other ethnic groups in the territory like Hui, Yi, Tibetans, Tujia, Miao, and Qiang, who still maintain their own languages and cultures.
Sichuanese or the Sichuan dialect is the native language of Chengdu, but the Chengdu dialect is widely in use, as Sichuanese spoken elsewhere has a large variation in accent.
Catholicism was introduced to Chengdu as early as 1640. The history of the Chengdu Diocese can be traced back to the Apostolic Vicariate of Se-Ciuen that had been erected in the year 1680. It became the Apostolic Vicariate of Northwestern Szechwan on April 2, 1856, and was renamed later on December 3, 1924, as the Apostolic Vicariate of Chengtu (Chengdu). The Vicariate was elevated to the Diocese of Chengtu (Chengdu) on April 11, 1946.
According to the Pontifical Yearbook, the diocese had 40,240 baptized Catholics in 1950, representing 0.2% of the 20,000,000 people in the territory. There were 95 priests then (73 diocesan and 22 Religious), serving the Catholics in 52 parishes. There were also 22 male Religious and 88 female Religious in the diocese.
Paris Foreign Missions (M.E.P.), a French Catholic missionary society, constructed a cathedral in traditional Sichuan style in the year 1904, in Chengdu. The cathedral was rebuilt and opened later in 1984. The missionaries even opened the Sichuan Catholic Seminary in the cathedral compound, in the same year.
Before founding the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the Annunciation Seminary built by the M.E.P. priests in 1908, in Shuyuan village of Bailu township, Pengzhou county, had been the cradle of priestly vocations in southwestern China. The seminary, also known by the name Bailu Shangshuyuan (White Deer Higher College), was listed as a national heritage site in the year 2006. The century-old seminary was completely collapsed in the 2008 earthquake, just a week before its centenary celebrations. Though rebuilt, the seminary was forced to close down during the political turmoil of the 1950s. After the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Church activities were gradually revived and a regional seminary was reopened in the cathedral compound in 1984.
Five years later in 1989, the seminary dismissed all seminarians due to what was termed as a "lack of discipline”. Classes were resumed in 1991, but the seminary was closed again in April 1994, when a majority of the seminarians protested against government interference. The government had appointed a provincial religious affairs official as deputy rector, replacing Bishop Joseph Xu Zhixuan of Wanxian (Wanzhou). In 1996, the seminary was moved to a small campus in Pi county that had only one classroom and a small dormitory. It was moved in 2005 to the present 2.4-hectare campus in the same county. In June 2009, the seminary celebrated its 25th anniversary. At that time, there were seven priest-teachers and about 20 part-time teachers instructing 25 philosophy and 28 theology students.
Chengdu's transportation network is well developed, and Chengdu serves as the starting point for many national highways, with major routes going from Sichuan-Shanxi, Sichuan-Tibet, and Sichuan-Yunnan. Chengdu is served by the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport located 16 km southwest of downtown. It has been the busiest airport in Central and Western China and the 6th busiest airport nationwide, with a total of 17.25 million in terms of passenger traffic in 2008.
Chengdu enjoys a mild and humid subtropical climate. It is warm and wet all year. The annual temperature averages 16ºC. Chengdu has an early spring, hot summer, cool autumn and warm winter.
The main industries in Chengdu - which include food, medicine, machinery and the information technology - are supported by numerous large-scale enterprises. Chengdu is one of the most important economic centers, transportation and communication hubs in Southwestern China. With nearly a 150 million people in the vicinity of Chengdu, foreign firms view Chengdu as a low cost center for staffing research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and other commercial enterprises. Additionally, it provides a vast market for fast moving consumer goods.
Chengdu is situated at the western edge of the Sichuan Basin. It is therefore sheltered from northwest winds from Siberia in winter by the Qinling Mountains to the north.
Chengdu has been a famous cultural centre with age-old colorful traditions of both religious and civil significance for the past 2,500 years in Chinese history. It has been ranked as one of the first excellent tourist city in China. Dujiangyan, 70 kilometers north west of Chengdu has an irrigation system built in 256 B.C. to protect people living along the banks of Min River from yearly flooding. The city was listed as a world heritage site in 2000. Including the 17 counties and two towns under its administration, the city has an area of 1,208 square kilometers and a population of about 630,000.
On every first Friday of the month thousands of Catholics flock to Holy Cross Church of Cherpunkal in Kerala, India to revere Infant Jesus and St. Thomas, the founder of the church. The church stands on the southern bank of Meenachil River. This fabled church, also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross)Church, belongs to Catholic Diocese of Palai of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.
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