11/05/2018, 09.28
CHINA-VATICAN
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Hebei, four underground priests disappear in police custody

by Bernardo Cervellera

Two priests belong to the ancient Diocese of Xiwanzi; the other two to that of Xuanhua. All four refuse to register in the Patriotic Association. For this they are subjected to indoctrination and isolation. In Shangcai (Henan), the cross of the bell tower and some spires  are destroyed.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Four priests from the underground community of the diocese of Zhangjiakou (Hebei) were taken away by police because they refused to join the Patriotic Association.

The diocese of Zhangjiakou was formed by the government and includes two ancient dioceses, that of Xiwanzi and Xuanhua

Two priests belong to the Diocese of Xiwanzi: Fr. Zhang Guilin (photo 1) and Fr. Wang Zhong (photo 2). The other two belong to the diocese of Xuanhua and are Fr. Su Guipeng and Fr. Zhao He (photo 3).

All priests were taken from their churches to a nearby hotel to be indoctrinated on the religious policy of the Chinese government. They are being subjected to this because they refuse to enroll in the Patriotic Association, which aims to create a Church independent of the Holy See.

According to some sources, Fr. Zhao He is instead under house arrest, where he is also subjected to indoctrination.

Since China and the Vatican signed an agreement on the appointment of bishops, with which - at least in theory - the Pope is recognized as head of the Catholic Church - the Patriotic Association and the United Front have been waging a campaign to remind all priests that the Church in China "despite the agreement", is "independent" and for this it obliges the underground priests not registered to join the Patriotic Association.

Many underground priests want to be recognized by the government, but do not want to belong to the PA, which according to Benedict XVI’s Letter to Catholics, has statutes that "are irreconcilable" with Catholic doctrine.

The Message that Pope Francis sent to Chinese Catholics, immediately after the agreement, does not deal with this burning theme among the underground faithful. AsiaNews sources state that the Vatican's position towards the PA has not changed and the Vatican delegation hopes to face the issue of the statutes of the PA in the future. Wang Meixiu, a religion expert at the Academy of Social Sciences, suggested that the PA should be an association with an optional membership.

In the meantime, however, both in Hebei and in Henan, the number of underground communities suppressed and unable to gather is growing. Many crosses and decorations of the sacred buildings are destroyed in the name of the sinicization of the submission of the Catholic faith to the Chinese culture, but above all to the PA and to the United Front, undermining every attempt at evangelization.

On the first of November, the Cross from the bell tower of the church of Shangcai (Henan) was destroyed, along with the spiers of the building. The church has been sealed and nobody can use it as a place of worship.

Many underground Catholics, observing the media silence on their suffering, feel "abandoned", "forgotten" and even "betrayed".

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