In China, Authorities Promise Catholics Money and Land to Rebuild Church

November 19, 2019

The stubbornness of the priests and the faithful of the Hebei Province in China has defeated the local communist authorities who promised a payment of 200,000 yuan - or 26,000 euros - and a plot for rebuilding their church that had been demolished in the name of the sinisation of religions. A more than symbolic victory in a situation that remains tenser than ever for Catholicism.

It is a bit of a David versus Goliath story. The standoff began early in the morning of October 31, 2019, when Guantao Area security officers went to Wugaozhuang Church to demolish it. They were not expecting resistance by the parish priest and his parishioners who had gathered in the church, refusing to leave it despite orders by the police. As time passed, many priests and faithful from neighboring parishes joined the small community.

By the afternoon of the vigil of All Saints, most of the priests of the diocese of Handan were also present on the scene. Talks began quickly and continued late into the night. Tired of war, the authorities promised to provide an alternative plot of land for the reconstruction of the church and compensation. It remains to be seen if this is merely a symbolic victory or if it will be followed by effects.

The Handan incident is far from isolated. According to Ucanews, the Catholic news agency that covers the activity of the Church in Asia, it is the result of religious laws that came into effect in February 2018, which stipulate that all churches, crosses, and statues constructed without a building permit since 2008, must be demolished.

The agreement signed between the Holy See and Beijing a few months later, in autumn 2018, was well short of putting an end to the policy of normalization of the Catholic Church in China, which President Xi Jingping has implemented in the name of the sinisation of religions.