Datong diocese: authorities demolish priests' and nuns' house with pickaxe

The local church, which is huge, is currently spared. The faithful are asking 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 of the Sino-Vatican Agreement on the appointment of bishops has not stopped government repression.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Yesterday police in Datong ((Shanxi) started to demolish the house of the local diocese that serves as a priests' and nuns' convent. AsiaNews learned this from sources at the scene who circulated videos of the incident online.

The church and the house have been there for 100 years and have all the permits. However, they are located in an area of high urban value. The first one is currently spared: it is huge and its demolition would cause a sensation, also internationally. The other building was instead destroyed with hammers and picks.

The faithful of Datong send messages on Wechat asking everyone to pray to stop the mayor's unreasonable behaviour. The diocese has been without a bishop since 2005: it is among the 'official' dioceses recognised by the Chinese Communist Party. The last pastor was Bishop Thaddeus Guo Yingong, who began his ministry in 1990 and died in 2005. He had spent more than 10 years at hard labour during the Cultural Revolution.

In November 2018, a group of faithful in the diocese circulated a signed open letter denouncing the government's increasing 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 stopped 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 "Sinicisation" 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.