Tianshui: police arrest dozens of underground priests and lay faithful
by Wang Zhicheng
The United Front wants to prevent the election of a bishop who from the underground community. Three underground apostolic administrators are under police control. The Church of Tianshui launches a campaign of prayer for the liberation of their priests and faithful.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - A group of priests and laity from the underground community of Tianshui (Gansu) were arrested by the security forces last weekend. Among them are the administrator of the underground diocese, Fr. John Baptist Wang Ruohan; retired Bishop Casmir Wang Milu; Father John Wang Ruowang; as well as several other priests and dozens of parish lay leaders. Bishop Wang and the two fathers Wang are brothers. They are being held in different places and subjected to political sessions.
So far, the underground diocese of Tianshui had maintained a comfortable relationship with the police and government authorities. The two communities, the official and underground, have a total of 20 thousand faithful and 27 priests, 15 of which belong to the underground community. In 2003, Msgr. Wang Milu retired and the official bishop, Msgr. Jinglong Augustine Zhao died in 2004. The official administrator of the diocese is Fr. Zhao Jianzhang Woods, nephew of Bishop. Zhao. He was also nominated to become bishop.
According to observers, the arrests aim to forcibly convince members of the underground - with more priests than the official church - to accept the candidate wanted by the Patriotic Association (PA) and prevent an underground priest being elected bishop. Already in its program last year, the United Front highlighted the urgency of electing a "friendly" bishop.
The PA has been practicing the policy of preventing the election of underground priests for some time, arresting several diocesan administrators. In recent months, two other priests were arrested, possible candidates for the episcopate.
In early August, Fr. Chen Hailong, underground priest of the diocese of Xuanhua (Hebei) was released after his arrest in April. During his 4 months detention he was abused and brainwashed to push to him to join the Patriotic Association and reject his bonds with the pope (see p. 05/08/2011 Fr. Chen Hailong, sequestered for four months to deny the pope, is freed).
In early August, was arrested Fr Wang Chengli, underground priest of 48 years, administrator of the diocese of Heze (Canzhou, Shandong). Under pressure to deny the link with the Pope and was left for days without eating and drinking (see 06/08/2011 Four priests arrested in Shandong, appeal to the Holy See and Church).
For several years now the PA has been struggling against the Vatican to appoint bishops compliant with the regime. In fact since last November, it has supported the ordination of three bishops without Papal mandate.
The Catholic Diocese of Tianshui have launched a prayer campaign for the liberation of their priests and faithful.