Buyback drains church coffers

The buyback of the confiscated land has drained the church's coffers, but it was a chance that could not be missed, says Xian diocese Coadjutor Bishop Dang Ming-yan .

He said the church could later have paid even more than 6.5 million yuan for the 1,800 square metre site if it had missed its chance.

'The diocese's [coffers] are empty ... We can understand the feelings of other Catholics, who act out of love to God and the church. But if we lost this chance, we may not have been able to reclaim it, even if we paid two, three or four times the amount that we did.'

Bishop Dang said the church had no grounds to reclaim the land, even though it was historically church property.

'Schools do not fall into the category of property that must be returned. The Lianhu district Education Department was nominally building a kindergarten [on the land],' he said. '[Xian] Bishop Li Duan had long talked about a buyback and it was during negotiations that this incident [the attack] occurred.'

Bishop Dang said the land, near the city's St Francis Cathedral, was essential for the church's operations.

'In the Xian diocese there are about 50 priests, but we only have 20 beds in the four-storey [bishop's house]. The same [accommodation shortage] applies to the nuns [in the convent],' he said.

Of the 6.5 million yuan, 6.01 million was paid to Lianhu Education Department for the land, with the rest going to cover part of the department's demolition and planning expenses, a church source said.

'If Catholics knew what happened internally, I feel they will understand us,' he said. 'Whether or not this is a climbdown, everyone will see it differently. But before God, we have tried our best.'

Bishop Dang said about 3 million yuan of the 6.5 million came from 'savings' from church land sales, and the rest was borrowed.