08/31/2017, 15.43
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As Catholics keep vigils for Changzhi church, social media and diocese website are blacked out

The local bishop is still talking with the head of the local Religious Affairs Bureau. No solution has been reached to satisfy the local Catholic community. The faithful plan night vigils and prayers.

Changzhi (AsiaNews) – Catholics in Changzhi (Shanxi) are still engaged a 24-hour sit-in to protect the Wangcun Church and the surrounding land from confiscation and demolition.

In order to stop believers from communicating with each other, Wechat App, a Chinese version of WhatsApp has been blocked. The website of the local diocese has also been blacked out.

Until yesterday it carried information, pictures and videos of the sit-in and the violence against local Catholics and priests by hooligans working for the local authorities. All online news about the affair have also been censored.

After decades, the Wangcun Church, dedicated to Saint Stephen, and the surrounding land, was returned to the diocese in 2012 in accordance with Chinese laws.

Since then, the local congregation began to restore it, but a few months ago local authorities decided to expropriate the land to build a public square.

Some members of the congregation are concerned that the church will also be seized (and demolished) in favour of highly profitable real estate projects.

Two days ago, the government began tearing down a wall, but was stopped by the pressure of at least a thousand people and priests.

Hooligans, soldiers, and policemen seriously beat a number priests and believers. After the violence, the village chief stopped the demolition, but the bulldozers remained nearby.

Local Catholics have decided to continue their 24-hour sit-in. Last night hundreds of faithful were still praying and reciting the rosary. Over the coming days, groups of at least ten people are expected to take turns to maintain a night vigil.

The local bishop, Mgr Peter Ding Lingbin, is still talking with the authorities, but so far no solution has been reached that can satisfy the congregation. Today, the bishop met with the head of the local Religious Affairs Bureau.

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