12/07/2010, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN

Chinese bishops deported to attend Patriotic Assembly

by W. Zhicheng - Z. Yuan
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.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - AsiaNews sources say that some bishops and priests of the official Church have been forcibly deported to the capital to ensure their participation at the Assembly of representatives of Chinese Catholics, which the pope considers incompatible with Catholic faith.

The Assembly opened today in Beijing on a low profileand is being shrouded in secrecy: it is impossible to contact anyone and not even Xinhua is reporting on the event. The meeting should lead to the election of the national president of the Patriotic Association and president of the council of Chinese bishops, two bodies that are unacceptable to the Catholic Church because they aim to build a separate Church, detached from the pope. "It's just an election of a new round of leadership," said Liu Bainian, vice president and chairman of the PA Assembly. In fact, the gathering is the "sovereign body" of the official Chinese church in which bishops are a minority among Catholics and government representatives. Ecclesial decisions are made on the basis of rigged elections. Ahead of today's meeting, Liu Bainian had sent all participants clear indications of what to do and what to vote.

The Assembly has been postponed for at least four years because the official bishops, in obedience to the Holy See's, have consistently refused to participate.

AsiaNews sources report that many bishops from different provinces, to avoid being dragged to Beijing, have gone into hiding or declared themselves too ill to attend. Others have been taken by government representatives and dragged against their will to the Assembly. Some bishops who knew they could not escape, agreed to come to Beijing, but decided not to celebrate the Assembly masses together, because of the presence of excommunicated bishops.

However the same sources claim that there are bishops who did not oppose any resistance. The Diocese of Beijing, in its newsletter, published two articles in honor of the event.

The most serious and obvious violence occurred in Hengshui (Hebei), where Mgr. Feng Xinmao was seized by about 100 police officers and government representatives, who fought for hours against the faithful and priests who were shielding their bishop in an attempt to ensure his freedom. One faithful was injured in the shoulder during the assault. In recent days, the bishop had been kept in isolation, away from his home. The faithful succeeded in snatching him from police control, to take him back to his residence. After a siege lasting hours, the bishop was again arrested and last night at 20:30, Mgr. Feng Xinmao was dragged to Beijing to attend the meeting. One of the faithful, weeping, as the bishop was escorted away, said: "Our poor bishop has no freedom."

Another prelate, Msgr. Li Liangui Cangzhou (Hebei) has disappeared to escape the meeting in Beijing. The police has threatened the diocese, that if the bishop does not surrender, he will be hunted throughout the country like "a dangerous criminal."

This Assembly and the forced deportation of bishops cast a dark shadow on relations between China and the Vatican, after years of detente. The situation has precipitated in recent weeks, after the illicit ordination of Fr Guo Jincai Bishop of Chengde, on 20 November. The PA forced eight official bishops to attend the ceremony, against the wishes of the Holy See, which condemned the incident as "a serious violation of religious freedom."

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