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  • » 08/02/2007, 00.00


    Priests arrested and put into solitary confinement: the governments answer to the Pope’s Letter

    Arrests and controls have halted all of the underground community’s summer activities. Families are forbidden to visit the prisoners. The aim appears to be to force the “obedience” of all non official communities to the Patriotic Association.

    Rome (AsiaNews) – At least 11 priests from the underground church are being held in arrest in various regions throughout China.  AsiaNews sources confirm that since last May their conditions have worsened due to the Pope’s Letter to China’s faithful.

    In Hebei, Zhejiang and central Mongolia all of the activities of the underground church, not recognised by the government have been blocked.  During the summer the priests dedicate their time to youth meetings and catechesis, but police controls and the arrest of several priests have rendered their work impossible.

    In the afternoon of July 24, 2007, in the Ximeng region of Inner Mongolia, three underground priests from Xiwanzi, Hebei were arrested by police. They are Father Liang Aijun, 35 years old,  Chong Li county, Father Wang Zhong, 41 years old, Gu Yuan county, and Father Gao Jinbao, 34 years old, Shang Yi county. According to AsiaNews sources the three were in Mongolia on mission.

    In Hebei, Fr. Cui Tai, 50 years, it was arrested in Zhuolu county.

    Local AsiaNews sources affirm that this series of arrests is “a government answer to the Pope’s Letter”.  The sources note in fact a hardening of both the police and Patriotic Association which corresponds to the publishing of the Letter, set for May 27, the feast of Pentecost (then distributed on June 30th).

    Weeks before Pentecost the police decreed solitary confinement for several Hebei priests who had been held in labour camps, forbidding relatives to visit them.  According to the same sources, there are 6 priests serving sentences of 3 years for illegal religious activities.  Until May last visits were permitted and relatives brought them food and clothing.

    A clamp down has also been registered in Zhejiang. Father Jiang Sunian, Wenzhou diocese chancellor, who had been promised early release due to ill health, will have to remain in prison until the end of his sentence that is until the end of August 2007.  Fr. Jiang was arrested last August for having falsified his passport to allow him travel on pilgrimage to Rome.

    According to local priests, the violence against the underground Church shows the Chinese authorities contempt for Benedict XVI’s courageous offer of a hand of friendship.  They also recall that in ’99 during a period of dialogue between China and the Vatican on the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations, there were also arrests and a clamp down.  A secret Communist Party document, dated August 17th 1999, decreed that “whatever the future of Sino-Vatican relations be” the underground Church had to be brought to obedience, through the re-education of the Patriotic Association.  The document stated that all those refusing to be “re-educated would be denied the right to carry out their priestly activities”.  Those responsible for illegal or subversive activities [such as celebrating mass in non registered placed, or in homes; carrying out processions without permission, etc..] “will be severely dealt with by authorities”.


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    See also

    23/05/2009 VATICAN - CHINA
    Pope approves Compendium of his Letter to the Catholics of China
    The publication two years on from the Letter on the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The Letter is furthering unity between the official and underground Church, but the Patriotic Association pounces on their divisions with controls and arrests.

    25/11/2009 CHINA - VATICAN
    Card. Zen publishes a guide to Pope's letter to Chinese Catholics
    The Patriotic Association is the most obvious cause of the painful situation of the Church in China. The underground bishops must take "caution" in seeking recognition from the government. Official bishops should not advertise the ideal of an independent church and show more unity with the pope.

    14/07/2009 CHINA - VATICAN
    Cardinal Zen: The Church in China two years after the Pope's Letter
    Misinterpretations of the Letter have led to confusion and distress in the underground community. The official bishops must have more courage in their faithfulness to the pope, refusing structures that are contrary to the Catholic faith. The Chinese government continues its usual policy: total control of the Church.

    20/12/2008 CHINA - VATICAN
    Beijing, Vatican must break with Taiwan and not interfere in domestic affairs
    Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the autonomy of the Chinese church in the area of the appointment and ordination of bishops. Patriotic bishop Ma Yinglin, ordained without the approval of the Holy See, also present. Hopes for dialogue with the Vatican may be vanishing.

    30/06/2007 VATICAN – CHINA
    Vatican to the conquest of a changing China
    For decades the diplomatic dialogue was non-existent; now there are signs of openness. As China experiences a religious renaissance, the regime’s various patriotic associations try to maintain their ideological and economic power over the Churches. Here is an analysis of the history of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing.

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