China: Authorities Demolish the Presbytery of the Diocese of Datong

March 06, 2023
Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral of Datong Diocese

On Wednesday, February 23, 2023, police in Datong (Shanxi) began demolishing the local diocesan house, which serves as a home for priests and a convent for nuns. AsiaNews learned from local sources who circulated videos of the incident online.

The local church, Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral, which is huge, has been spared for the moment. The faithful ask for prayers to change the mayor's mind. The destroyed house is located in an area of high urban value. The local Catholic community has been without a bishop since 2005. The renewal in October 2022 of the Sino-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops did not end the government crackdown.

The church and house are over 100 years old and have all the necessary permits. The church has been spared for the moment: given its size. Its demolition would cause a sensation, including at the international level. The other building, instead, was destroyed with hammers and picks.

Datong faithful send messages on Wechat asking everyone to pray for an end to stop the mayor’s behavior. The diocese has been without a bishop since 2005: it is one of the “official” dioceses recognized by the Chinese Communist Party. The last pastor was Bishop Thaddeus Guo Yingong, who died in 2005. He had spent more than 10 years at hard labor during the Cultural Revolution.

In November 2018, a group of faithful in the diocese circulated an open letter decrying the government’s growing oppression of the Christian community after the passage of the New Regulations on Religious Activities.

The signing in 2018, and the double renewal in October 2020 and 2022, of the Sino-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops has not ended the government's repression of Chinese Catholics, especially unofficial (underground) ones.

“The case of the Datong diocese is not the only one of destruction of sacred places or property belonging to the Catholic Church. For years, the State has been waging a campaign in the country to eliminate crosses that are too prominent, decorations, paintings and statues deemed ‘too Western’: a way to affirm ‘Sinicization’ and a Christianity ‘according to Chinese characteristics,’ subject to the authority of the Party.”

“The agreement does not seem to work in terms of appointments either. In November, the Holy See denounced the Chinese authorities' violation of the agreement with the appointment of Bishop John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Jiangxi. Despite the many vacant Sees, no investiture of a bishop has taken place in China since 8 September 2021.”