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  • » 06/11/2014, 00.00


    Apostolic administrator of Yujiang arrested as China attempts to "eradicate" underground Church

    Bernardo Cervellera

    The priest, Fr. John Peng Weizhao, disappeared in police custody on 30 May and the authorities refuse to give news of his whereabouts. Many apostolic administrators and underground candidates for the episcopate suffer arrests and torture to stop their election and to facilitate rise of 'patriotic' candidates.

    Rome (AsiaNews) - News has broken of the arrest and disappearance of the Apostolic Administrator of Yujiang, Fr. John Peng Weizhao last May 30. Reacting to the news, a Church source in China noted bitterly: "They are trying to eliminate all the candidates for the episcopate in the underground Church. They want to eradicate the underground Church by eliminating the younger leaders".

    UCA News reports that the priest was picked up by police and members of the Religious Affairs Bureau in Fuzhou on May 30. Since then the priest's parishioners and friends have had no word on where he was taken. The members of the Religious Affairs Bureau, who also presided over the arrest, claim to know nothing and that his detention was on the orders of the provincial (and not local) office.

    Fr. Peng is about forty years old and has been apostolic administrator of Yujiang since 2012. It should be noted that Yujiang is an underground diocese, until recently under the pastoral leadership of the elderly Msgr. Thomas Zeng Jingmu, who has spent over 23 years in prison for his faith and his obedience to the Pope.

    Under the Chinese government's restructuring of church dioceses, Yujiang is one of five dioceses in Jiangxi incorporated into one, Nanchang, under the leadership of the official bishop John Li Suguang. Li Suguang is in an ambiguous situation with regards the Holy See: he has participated in illicit ordinations and seems more willing to obey the directions of the Patriotic Association. This was not the case with Fr. Peng, who was formed and educated in the underground Church.

    The Catholics in Jiangxi, who number at least 100 thousand, are more inclined to follow Fr. Li Peng than the bishop. This in fact, is probably why the Religious Affiars Bureau stepped in: to "advise" the apostolic administrator to step aside, to leave all the freedom and power to the patriotic bishop, or someone more obedient to the Party.

    The Patriotic Association and the Religious Affairs Bureau have been carrying out a campaign to prevent any possible election of an underground bishop for years by arresting several diocesan administrators or threatening them with torture.

    In 2012, the apostolic administrator (underground) of the Diocese of Harbin was arrested ahead of the illegitimate episcopal ordination (without the Pope's permission) of Yue Fushen.

    In previous years, other priests, deemed possible candidates for the episcopate, were arrested.

    In August 2011, a group of priests and laity of the underground community of Tianshui (Gansu) was arrested. The group included the administrator of the underground diocese, Fr. John Baptist Wang Ruohan.

    In early April 2011 Fr. Chen Hailong, an underground priest of the diocese of Xuanhua (Hebei) was also arrested and released four months later. During his 4 months of detention he was abused and brainwashed to get him to join the Patriotic Association and reject his bond with the Pope (see Freed 05/08/2011 Fr. Chen Hailong, kidnapped four months to deny the Pope, is freed).

    In early August 2011, Fr. Wang Chengli, an underground priest of 48, administrator of the diocese of Heze (Canzhou, Shandong) was arrested. He was also pressured to renounce all ties with the Pope and was left for days without food or water (see 06/08/2011 Four priests arrested in Shandong, appeal to the Holy See and Church).

    The elimination of possible candidates for the episcopate from the underground Church leaves room for candidates who are more timid and submissive, seemingly "patriotic", but actually "opportunists" (as defined by Benedict XVI). This model is promoted by the leaders of the official Chinese Church, led by the president of the college of bishops, Msgr. Joseph Ma Yinglin, an excommunicated bishop, and by Msgr. Johan Fan Xinyao, head of the Patriotic Association, whose purpose - an Church independent of the Pope-is "incompatible with Catholic doctrine" (see Letter of Benedict XVI to the Catholics of China).


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    See also

    10/08/2013 CHINA
    Hebei underground Catholic priest arrested
    A group of law enforcement officers stopped Fr. Song Wanjun of the clergy of Xiwanzi, while driving his car at 4 in the morning. Place of detention unknown. The Northern Province, stronghold of Catholic China, still targeted by the authorities.

    05/08/2011 CHINA - VATICAN
    Fr. Chen Hailong, sequestered for four months to deny the pope, is freed
    He suffered isolation and hunger. To overcome loneliness and isolation, he drew a picture of the Blessed Sacrament on the wall of his cell, praying for a long time. The government wants to force him and other priests to register and subscribe to the PA, which wants to build a Church independent of the pope.

    24/03/2010 CHINA – VATICAN
    Another underground priest arrested in Fujian
    He organised a camp for 300 university students. He was charged along with other priests, one of whom was held for 15 days and then released. Two more are waiting for their arrest. Tens of priests are currently detained in prisons or forced labour camps. Three bishops are still in police custody years after they disappeared. The Vatican Commission on the Church in China ends its plenary session today.

    07/12/2010 CHINA – VATICAN
    Chinese bishops deported to attend Patriotic Assembly
    The gathering, incompatible with the faith of Catholics, aims to elect the Presidents of the Patriotic Association and the Council of Bishops. Some bishops have gone into hiding to avoid having to participate, while others have been taken against their will. The bishop of Hengshui, seized and torn from the safe cover of the faithful, dragged to Beijing.

    10/11/2017 14:50:00 CHINA – VATICAN
    Mgr Han Zhihai goes from underground to official bishop of Lanzhou

    Government representatives say that the transition from underground to official bishop is the result of negotiations with the Vatican. The ceremony took place with the reading of the "Letter of Approval" by the Council of Bishops and the candidate’s “patriotic” pledge. Mgr Han Zhihai is a "smart steward". On 16 November 16, the ordination of another official bishop is scheduled to take place in Handan.

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