Relaymedia

Government Agrees to Return Property to Catholic Church in China

After a long property dispute, the local government in Tianjin, China has acknowledged the church’s claim to the property and agreed to return it. Father Anthony Han Huide, procurator of the Taiyuan d
( [email protected] ) Jan 02, 2006 01:47 PM EST

After a long property dispute, the local government in Tianjin, China has acknowledged the church's claim to the property and agreed to return it.

Father Anthony Han Huide, procurator of the Taiyuan diocese, said Tianjin's deputy mayor verified the property rights of the priests and promised to resolve the dispute by following the government's religious policies, according to Asia News.

He added that the deputy mayor handed him and the other priests the keys to the building, inviting them to use it anytime when they went to the city.

The officials told them they should end their occupation and return to Shanxi province as they write up the documents for the transfer of the property.

However, Asia News reports that the community of believers of the dioceses of Taiyuan and Yuci fear that these promises may not be upheld.

The dispute began on Dec. 15 when 50 priests and nuns from the two dioceses went to Tianjin and occupied the three-story building, insisting that it belonged to the church.

On the next day they were attacked by 30 armed thugs, leaving several severely beaten and some requiring hospitalization.

Since no date or details were given, Father Han said two priests will be sent to Tianjin again in early January to follow up the case with the government until the building and the other properties are returned to the two dioceses.

The land dispute, second between Tianjin's local government and the Catholic Church, highlights tensions between religion and the governments control in China, even as Beijing courts diplomatic ties with the Vatican.

During China's 1949 Cultural Revolution, many church-owned properties were confiscated by the state, but in the 1980s the Chinese government's religious policies have allowed local government officials to return or negotiate the return of church properties.

Another effect of the Revolution is the severed ties between China and the Vatican as the Communist party took control over the Roman Catholic churches. However Pope Benedict XVI has made it increasingly clear that he wants to reunite the Catholics in China.

Sources report that 85 percent of the government-approved bishops have reconciled with the Vatican even despite the severed ties in 1951.