Boat-shaped structure conceived 12 years ago
Some 6,000 Catholics attended the consecration of Our Lady Help of Christians, the tallest church in China, in Xiaohengtang in eastern Jiangsu province. (Photo supplied)
The tallest church in China was consecrated in Suzhou Diocese in eastern Jiangsu province just as the Month of Mary began.
Bishop Joseph Xu Honggen of Suzhou presided over the ceremony in Xiaohengtang in Kunshan city on May 2. Bishop Paul Meng Ningyou of Taiyuan from central Shanxi province and 50 priests from different dioceses concelebrated the Mass.
About 6,000 Catholics from local and neighboring provinces, including a group from the Korean community, packed the church built for a capacity of 2,000 people.
"The church was fully occupied. Even the balcony was full of people with only a narrow path on the aisle left for passing through," a Jiangsu Catholic who identified himself as John told ucanews.com.
Bishop Xu said inaugurating the new church in the Month of Mary was meaningful. "We ask God to bless the church and give us grace through the intercession of Mary," he told ucanews.com.
Bearing a modern design, the new church was built in a boat shape. Its main spire is 75 meters tall, making it the tallest Catholic worshipping venue in China.
"The boat-shaped design represents the church is sailing in this world to spread the Gospel of Christ. We have to do a better witness," said Bishop Xu.
The restructure plan of the church started in 2004. Though the government has been emphasizing "sinicization" in recent years, the bishop said it did not affect the design of the church.
"There was no such guidance 12 years ago. We can follow the idea and design that is normal to the church," he added.
The church honors Our Lady Help of Christians as its patron. The diocese hopes the Mother of God can protect Catholics in China and help more people join the church.
Inside the church, a large drawing adopted "the heavenly banquet" as the theme. Apart from a portrait of Christ and the 12 apostles in the middle, six foreign missionary saints and six Chinese martyrs are included in the drawing.
Italian Jesuit Father Giulio Aleni (1582-1649) introduced Catholicism to the Suzhou area in 1616, while the first church built in Xiaohengtang in the ancient Kunshan city is traced to 1911.
After the Communists came to power in 1949, the church was confiscated and turned into a high school. In 1992, the government returned the property to Suzhou Diocese, which has 65,000 Catholics.
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