Wenzhou: 90-year-old bishop and 26 priests protest against cross demolitions
by Joseph Yuan
This is not the first time that the old bishop and his priests speak out against the demolition campaign against crosses and churches, which has touched more than 400 buildings. During the protest, police tried to disperse the group, which sought to submit a petition. The faithful recite a Crown of the Divine Mercy is in support of the Chinese Church. In Lishui, churches are expected to be torn down by 31 August.

Wenzhou (AsiaNews) – Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou, who is almost 90, and 26 priests from his diocese held a protest today outside Wenzhou City’s main government building calling for an end to cross demolition in the province of Zhejiang.

A year ago almost to the day (30 July 2014), Mgr Zhu had issued a pastoral letter expressing his opposition to the practice, which has already affected more than 400 buildings and crosses.

At 2 pm, the bishop, in all the splendour of his white hair, and his priests raised a banner (pictured) that said, “Safeguard the dignity of our Faith; against demolitions of Crosses”. Individually, several priests held up other signs that read, “Resolutely oppose demolitions of Crosses”.

As the protest unfolded, government officials approached them and asked them to leave. Police followed up to do the same. The clergymen eventually left. Carrying their banners and signs, they walked from the government building to the Petition Office. Here they met the staff. On their way, passers-by and car drivers stopped and watched.

This is the fourth time that the official Catholic community in Wenzhou publicly expressed its displeasure against cross demolition.

A year ago, Mgr Zhu had issued his pastoral letter titled ‘Do not be afraid, have faith,’ in which he urged the authorities to stop the demolition campaign. His priests followed this with a signed statement.

The diocese did the same, expressing doubts about the new rules on the construction of religious buildings in the province of Zhejiang. Some Protestant communities have also criticised the latter.

Today, information about the action by the bishop and priests soon spread through social media, especially on Weixin, a popular mobile phone messaging service.

Some Catholics rushed to the government office to support their Church leaders. One of them said, "Many faithful hope to join the action. It is our responsibility to preserve the Crosses”.

Also this morning, during Mass, a priest asked worshippers to recite the Crown of the Divine Mercy every day to protect the Catholic faith and the crosses.

However, some local Catholics expect the crosses in the Lishui area to be taken down by 31 August. Concerned about his possibility, the faithful will pray to protect their churches.