Harbin (AsiaNews) - Father Giuseppe Zhao Hongchun, apostolic administrator of Harbin, has been "missing" since the afternoon of July 4, where he went to attend an appointment arranged by religious affairs officials.
Local sources told AsiaNews that they believed he has been under house arrest, but his whereabouts is not known to them. This event is related to the upcoming illicit ordination of Father Yue Fusheng in the open Church on July 6, they said.
Father Zhao, who is not affiliated with the government-sanctioned open Church, was "invited" by government officials yesterday (July 4) afternoon to a meal. At 7 pm, his assistant parish priest received a phone call from Father Zhao, saying that he cannot return in the coming few days because officials from religious affairs department needed to talk to him and "the talk would take several days."
Ordained a priest in 2004, Father Zhao (see photo, on the left), 39, was appointed by the Holy See as the apostolic administrator of Harbin in December 2011. He has been a parish priest of Harbin in the underground Church under Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, (photo, on the right).
Sources told AsiaNews that Father Zhao has been under house arrest in order to prevent him from taking actions during the illicit ordination on July 6.
Father Zhao told local sources that he would do his best in reconciliation and remedies for the divisions in the Church. In May this year, when rumors of a possible illicit ordination in Harbin were circulating, Father Zhao had encouraged local Catholics to pray for Father Yue, the bishop candidate, hoping that Father Yue would patiently wait for the approval of the Holy See. Moreover, Father Zhao had talked to Father Yue face-to-face in a bid to convince him to contact and communicate with the Holy See about the ordination, the sources said.
Father Zhao has been active in organizing parish youth pastoral work, laity formation, catechism classes, Church media, as well as formation for religious vocations in which four young men are discerning their vocation.