Chinese Catholics succeed in prayerful protest against demolition of their church - for now

ReutersChristians in China are facing increased restrictions under President Xi Jinping's rule.

Dozens of Chinese Catholics yesterday tried to stop the demolition of their church in Wangcun, near Changzhi, in thesouth-eastern Shanxi province of the country, according to Asia News.

The Christians, some standing on the bulldozer controlled by police, shouted 'Jesus save me!' and 'Mother Mary, have pity on us!' as they tried to hinder the demolition, apparently with success – temporarily at least.

Priests and thousands of believers gathered in the rain around the church and the surrounding wall, praying and asking the Lord to make the heart of the officials 'less hard and act in accordance with the law of the state that protects freedom of religion,' according to the report.

Previously, officials had authorised the restoration of the church, which dates back to the early 20th century.

The restoration work had begun four months ago but now, for reasons of 'urban planning,' the authorities reportedly changed their mind and decreed the demolition of the building.

The Communist Party District Committee, along with local authorities, have stated that, 'After the demolition, a square will be built to enrich the life of the people'.

Changzhi has a local population of almost 3.5 million, of which some 50,000 are Catholics, served by 47 priests, according to Asia News, with more than 60 churches and chapels in the diocese.