Diocese of Hengshui
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In a land area of 8.815 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the administrative divisions of Hengshui City, which comprises of plus Jizhou and Shenzhou cities and 8 counties: Yaoyang, Fucheng, Jingxian, Zaoqiang, Shenxian, Anping, Wuqiang and Wuyi in Hebei Province, Northern China. 

Hengshui town is about 250 kilometers south of Beijing.

Population

In Hengshui Town, the population is about 4,362,676 at end of 2009.. (The population of the whole country is 1,3 billion). Most residents are ethnic groups of Han, Hui, Manchu, Mongolia, and Korea. 

A majority of Hengshui diocese's 40,000 Catholics and its catechumens are rural dwellers with little education.

Language

Mandarin Chinese and local dialect are in use.

History

Catholicism was introduced to Hengshui area in 1861 during the Qing Dynasty.

Hengshui, which was a part of Southeastern Tcheli Apostolic Vicariate, suffered from religious persecution during the Boxer Uprising in 1900. About 3,000 people in the Catholic village of Zhujiahe were massacred by the Boxers, among which some martyrs were canonized in 2000.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Jingxian was erected in 1939 from the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian and the diocese was entrusted to Austrian Jesuits in China. It was elevated to a diocese when the Holy See established the Chinese Church Hierarchy in 1946.

The first Vatican-Appointed Prefect Apostolic of Jingxian was Father Leopoldo Brellinger, S.J. He was ordained bishop in 1947 and expelled from mainland China in 1954. He died in Taiwan's Taoyuan county at the age of 74 in 1967.

According to the Pontifical Yearbook, the diocese had 32,645 baptized Catholics in 1950, representing 1.3 percent of the 2,500,000 people then in the territory. 71 priests (35 diocesan and 36 religious) and 27 Religious nuns served 52 parishes at that time.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), all religious activities stopped. In 1980, while the diocese gradually restored under the state's reform and open-door policies, the open Church structure renamed the diocese as Hengshui according to the government's administrative division.

The next year, Bishop Petrus Fan Wenxing became the ordinary of Hengshui diocese. He ordained his coadjutor Bishop Mathias Chen Xilu in 1996, who succeeded him upon his retirement three years later. However, Bishop Chen had a stroke and became unconscious in 2002. Bishop Fan then ordained Father Peter Feng Xinmao as coadjutor bishop in 2004. Bishop Feng succeeded as the fourth bishop of Jingxian (Hengshui) in 2008.

This diocese has the lowest number of Catholics among the nine dioceses serving the government-sanctioned "open" Church community in Hebei province, traditionally a Catholic stronghold, which almost surrounds Beijing.

Hengshui diocese in recent years has encouraged lay Catholics to spread the Gospel to relatives, friends and neighbors, and baptisms increased. But the faith commitment of these new Catholics was not consistent, according to a priest, explaining the increased requirements for catechumens.

Climate

Hebei Province has a temperate continental monsoonal climate, with dry and windy springs, hot and rainy summers and dry-cold winters. Its maximum temperature is 40 degrees Celsius and minimum temperature of -18 degrees Celsius. It has a mean annual temperature of 1-13 degrees Celsius and a mean annual precipitation of 350-750 mm. 

Economy

The special local products of the region include Zhangbei mushroom, Hebei pears, Xuanhua grapes, Shenzhou honey peaches, Tangshan pottery and Zhuzhou blankets.

Topography

As Hebei surrounds the nation's capital, Beijing, it is a geographically important province. North of the lower reaches of the Yellow River and along the Bohai Sea in the east, it has an area of more than 187,700 square kilometers. 43 percent of the plains are less than 100 meters above sea level.

Two descendants of a martyr in the Zhujiahe massacre during the 1900 Boxer Uprising

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