HÀ NỘI – After prolonged discussions with the public, local diocese and Christian community in Xuân Trường District, authorities in the northern province of Nam Định have decided to pull down the dilapidated Bùi Chu Church to build a new one.
The altar is being removed to make way for the work. Photos tienphong.vn
Priest Vinh Sơn Đỗ Huy Hoàng of Bùi Chu Diocese told Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that local authorities had given the go-ahead. The diocese had tried to delay the projects due to objections made by people and experts last year.
He said the church had been standing for 135 years, and many people said it had historical, cultural and architectural values, but it had never been recognised as a national relic or heritage site by the State.
Local authorities have given the nod to the decision.
“That’s why local authorities have agreed to take it down,” he said.
Most local people said it was necessary to build a more spacious and safer place for local Christians to worship.
Michael Croft, Head of Office and UNESCO Representative, told Tiền Phong in an earlier interview there had been a lot of chatter on social networks, but it rarely mentioned the most important factor – safety for locals and their right to conduct religious activities at a place they consider holy.
Locals are helping with the project.
In order to preserve Bùi Chu Church, first and foremost, it was necessary to ensure people’s safety and their right to conduct religious activities, he said.
“Preservation of heritage should include both tangible and intangible factors,” he said. “We should not just try to keep the tangible heritage of the building by any means.”
On May 7, 2019, he sent a proposal to examine the church, which was accepted. On May 10, 2019, a delegation of UNESCO representatives, architects and heritage experts visited the site.
Croft said even to the untrained eye, it was obvious there was serious structural damage, with subsiding foundations, cracked walls and rotten beams.
The church was built in 1884 when only local materials were available, nothing long-lasting like stone.
After the visit, UNESCO experts discovered the local diocese had been preparing for the day for a long time, and had been advised by local authorities.
According to the experts, the architecture was particularly significant.
Bùi Chu Church, located in Xuân Ngọc Commune, Xuân Trường District, Nam Định Province, was built in the late 19th century by Spanish Bishop Wenceslao Onate Thuận.
The church was inaugurated in 1885 and renovated in 1974 and 2000.
Many parts of the church are downgraded while the courtyard floods in heavy rains.
Local Christians said they felt unsafe in the church.
“I was worried that something could fall on me at any time,” said Nguyễn Đức Minh, a local.
The Bùi Chu parish (diocese) has a total area of 1,350sq.km, with 412,000 Christian followers. VNS