06/06/2016, 13.51
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After hosts and tabernacle desecrated in Handan, police ban reparation ceremonies and novenas

by Eugenia Zhang

After someone broke into three tabernacles and desecrated the Eucharist, the bishop launched a novena of prayer. Police and public security stopped it, possibly for fear of the 4 June anniversary. The village where the incident occurred was surrounded and priests told not to leave home.

Handan (AsiaNews) – Police and the Religious Affairs Bureau in Handan (Hebei) banned local Catholics from gathering today for a day of prayer and fasting that the bishop had called as an act of reparation for the desecration of the Eucharist.

Police said that the diocese did not have permission to rally the faithful from different districts and surrounded the village where the desecration took place, holding back anyone coming from elsewhere. Some priests were placed under surveillance and told not to leave home.

Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai was forced to cancel the prayer rally, deemed "illegal" by the Religious Affairs Bureau.

Everything began on 27 May when parishioners in the village of Di Xiao Di Ba found that the church tabernacle had been burglarised and the hosts thrown to the ground outside the holy building. Two other tabernacles had been violated on 26 and 27 May.

On 3 June, the diocese launched a novena of prayer and penance with the Eucharistic adoration as a sign of the sacrament’s high honour. The goal was to ask for forgiveness for not watching over the churches and preserving their dignity. Today a gathering with prayer and fasting was scheduled to take place at the church in Xiao Di Ba.

Called in to deal with the theft, police found themselves facing a community hurt in its feelings and eager to gather. Fearing possible riots, public security was called in, and the rally was banned. The thief, a certain Chen Jing En, 19, has been apprehended.

Mgr Yang, who was thus forced to cancel all public gatherings, asked the faithful to pray and do penance at home.

"That the police and Public Safety are afraid of a gathering for prayer and penance is really laughable,” a local Catholic said.

“It is true that we're in the period around 4 June (anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre), but the police neuroses always result in an attack against religious freedom."

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