ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: May 17, 2019 09:48 AM GMT
Catholics are protecting Shengdiliang Shrine in Xiwanzi Diocese in China's Hebei province. (ucanews.com photo)
Chinese Catholics prevented local authorities from dismantling holy statues at a shrine in Hebei province, but they are worried about another round of persecution by communist officials after a church in the northern province had its cross removed.
When the faithful heard that authorities were planning to demolish statues at Shengdiliang Shrine in Xiwanzi Diocese on May 13, they started to sleep overnight at the site to protect them.
The shrine has statues of Jesus the Good Shepherd, Lazarist Bishop Joseph-Martial Mouly (the first bishop of Xiwanzi) and Lazarist Father Mathew Shi (the first parish pastor of Xiwanzi Church).
As of May 15, about 20 Catholics were still guarding the hillside shrine and being monitored by authorities.
Mary, a local Catholic, told ucanews.com that the statues were installed by a parish priest more than 10 years ago and people do a pilgrimage to the shrine every Lent for prayers.
She believes that Catholics face more 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 Handan Diocese was removed by authorities on May 6-7.
Many parishes in Handan had notices posted saying that "minors are forbidden to enter and communists are not allowed to believe in religion.”
Peter, a source from Handan, told ucanews.com that authorities had issued an order for the removal of the cross on April 18.
A notice said that churches, crosses or name signs of churches without permits must be demolished. It is believed that 24 churches in the diocese are on a list for demolition.
Another source told ucanews.com that there were not many requirements for church construction in the past. The diocese only needed to submit a land registration document and approval from the religious affairs department. However, authorities now require churches to go through other procedures such as applying for construction permits.
He accused authorities of being hooligans. "How can you ask a church that is already built to follow the new regulations?" he asked, adding that this is only an excuse for the government to eliminate the China Church.