Cathedral now part of China’s World Heritage Island

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Christ the King Church was built by a Spanish Dominican bishop in 1917. A Catholic church building is part of a Chinese island’s inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list which is being seen by local Catholics as an opportunity for more people to learn about their faith.The former Catholic cathedral of Xiamen Diocese on Gulangyu Island of eastern Fujian province was included by the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee held in Krakow, Poland, on July 8.

Former cathedral now part of China's World Heritage island

The decision in recognizing the Christ the King Church as one of the 51 notable sites on the island comes as the church celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is a good chance to let more people feel the religious culture on the island,” said the bishop.The church is located at the center of the heritage area so “priests and laypeople in the church are very happy and excited,” said Joseph Chen, a full time worker of the church.

“Being the centenary year we planned to have many celebrations for this before and after the feast day of Christ the King in November,” Chen said. The Christ the King Church was built by Spanish Dominican Bishop Mamaunel Prat in 1917. Since most Catholics now live in the more developed Xiamen city and traveling the ferry to Gulangyu for Mass is not convenient, the Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Xiamen city, which is under reconstruction, was made the cathedral.

Many traders from the West settled on Gulangyu after China’s Qing Dynasty lost the Opium War in 1842 and signed the Treaty of Nanking that made Xiamen a trading port. Later in 1902, Britain, France, Spain, the United States and other Western countries signed the treaty with the imperial Qing government turning Gulangyu into a public concession. Following these developments, the island “became an important window for Sino-foreign exchanges,” according to the UNESCO.Among the other historic sites on the island are Buddhist and Taoist temples, and several Protestant buildings such as a church and former houses used by missionaries.