Parishioners Say Church in China Was Burned Down by Arsonists

Local Police Have Failed to Investigate Cause of Fire

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WUHAN, China, SEPT. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Parishioners of a local Catholic congregation in central China say that their church was deliberately burned down last week.

The church was the only building left in Caibang village near Xiantao City, Hubei province, after locals refused to accept payment from developers who propositioned residents to move to make way for new apartments.

A local Catholic layman, who was interviewed by UCA News and declined to be identified, accused developers of burning down houses in the area when the inhabitants were out, forcing them to accept compensation so construction could go ahead.

“Nobody shows any concern about such an evil practice,” she told the Asian Catholic news agency.

Father Zhang Wei, a young priest of Hanyang diocese, reported the fire in his blog. He claimed that the developer did not offer compensation to the Church as promised, which would have allowed it to move to another site.

The wooden altar was burned to the ground while the roof was gutted by fire.“Unless flammable liquids were sprinkled in the church, it would not have ignited easily,” he said.

He added that worshipers were forced to abandon the Church after Easter celebrations this year, when authorities cut off water and electricity supplies to the house.

Fr. Zhang also claimed that the police have so far failed to seriously investigate the fire. The church was rebuilt in 1993 after being dismantled in 1953 during the political upheavals which marked the start of Mao Zedong’s Communist rule.