From The New York Times:
The historic Bui Chu Cathedral in Vietnam, a 135-year-old church considered by many an architectural gem, is being demolished to make room for a bigger cathedral despite last-ditch efforts to save it.
By Wednesday, workers had removed tiles from the floor and dismantled much of the roof of the cathedral, which is in Nam Dinh Province, about two hours south of Hanoi. A high fence has been erected around the building, and demolition will most likely be completed by early next month.
“This would amount to an irremediable loss of heritage for Vietnam, for the world, and for the Catholic Church itself,” said Martin Rama, a top economist with the World Bank who has worked to save the building. “Indeed, the ancient Bui Chu Cathedral embodies an amazing intersection of culture, history, and architecture.”
As Vietnam’s population and economy have grown in recent decades, the country has lost much of its cultural heritage with the destruction — or aggressive renovation — of numerous French colonial buildings, pagodas and temples.
The Communist government declined last year to declare Bui Chu a heritage site, which would have prevented its demolition. Nor has it intervened in plans to build a new cathedral.
In many parts of Vietnam, the Roman Catholic Church has been a leader in historic preservation, making the cathedral’s demolition unusual.
“You would rate the church as one of the most successful defenders of heritage around the country,” said Mark Bowyer, a longtime Vietnam resident and travel blogger who visited Bui Chu last year for his website, Rusty Compass. “In this case, the church is committing an act of self-harm.”