08/06/2011, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN

Four priests arrested in Shandong, appeal to the Holy See and Church

Jian Mei
The clergymen were holding a spiritual retreat for priests. At present, they are held in isolation in Dongming without water and food. Public security and the Religious Affairs Bureau want to force them to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is trying to create a breakaway Church, independent of the pope. Underground Catholics urge action by the Holy See and the universal Church to free them.
Heze (AsiaNews) – Police took into custody four priests from the Diocese of Heze (Caozhou, Shandong) and are holding them in isolation and without food in a prison in Dongming County. Catholics in China have called on the Holy See and the universal Church to intervene to free them.

The clergymen were seized and arrested in late night on Wednesday (Aug. 3) at a house in Luquan (Dongming County), where they were holding a spiritual retreat for fellow priests. Security police climbed over the walls of the house and entered the premises claiming that they were looking for “thieves”. Instead, they caught the four priests asleep and forced them to go with them. Now Fr Wang Chengli, 48 and diocesan administrator, Fr Zhao Wuji, 50s, Fr Li Xianyang, 34, and Fr Sun Guichun, 38, are in prison.

Police has refused people the right to visit them and has denied the four priests food and water for one day and two nights after being held, in order to force them to sign up with the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a body the Chinese Communist government set up to induce Catholics to break away from the pope. Local sources told AsiaNews that the priests refused to sign.

Meanwhile, government officials have been gathering “evidence” to charge the priests, trying even to bribe the faithful or threaten them in order to turn them against the clergymen.

Some of the faithful have tried to talk to the police to get the four priests released, but to no avail. Instead, they found out that the four men were subjected to interrogations by officials from national security, local police and the Religious Affairs Bureau.

Members of local underground Catholic communities said they hope that the Church and Holy See will help them save the priests’ lives. They urge the universal Church to show its support and pray for the release of the prisoners so that everyone can adhere to the principles of truth and continue to bear witness to our faith.
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