» 08/10/2013, 00.00
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.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - A group of police
officers from Qiaodong District, in the northern province of Hebei, have arrested
and taken to an unknown location an underground priest of the diocese of
Xiwanzi, Fr. Song Wanjun.
priest had already risked arrest some time ago, but had managed to escape. He
was stopped and detained by 10 law enforcement officers at 4 in the morning of
August 7 last while he was driving his car.
Wanjun, 39, was ordained a priest 11 years ago. He
carried out his pastoral mission for years in Zhangbei county before being assigned
to Chongli county. The
news of his arrest was confirmed by the Joseph Cardinal Kung Foundation, based
in the United States.
Diocese of Xiwanzi is located in the northern part of the province. In
recent years, the Chinese government has clamped down harshly on the local underground
Church: many priests and bishops were imprisoned, placed under house arrest or
forced to undergo "study sessions" to convince them to join the
Patriotic Association, a government organization that Benedict
XVI described in his letter to the Chinese Church as "incompatible"
with Catholic doctrine.
In recent years other arrests of
clergy include Msgr. Yao Ling,
who has since died, Fr. Li Huisheng, sentenced to 7 years,
Fr. Wang Zhong, sentenced
to 3 years. Two
underground bishops from Heibei province were also arrested several years ago, whose
fate remains a mystery. The first is
Su Zhimin, almost 82 year, bishop of Baoding (Hebei), arrested by the police on
October 8, 1997. The
charges against him, whether he was given a trail or where he is being held
In November 2003, he was located
by chance while receiving hospital care in Baoding, but he was surrounded by
a brief and hurried visit from relatives, he once again disappeared in police
custody. The second is Msgr. Cosma
Shi Enxiang, 92 years old, bishop of Yixian (Hebei), arrested on 13 April 2001.
traces of his wellbeing or whereabouts have been lost, despite the constant
pleas of his relatives and faithful to the authorities for the smallest amount
of information. Some
time ago AsiaNews launched a campaign
for their release.
Hebei is one of the strongholds
of the Catholic China: the diocese of Baoding alone, one of the largest and
with a strong presence of underground Catholics, has at least 50 thousand
are 120 priests, official and underground. For
several years the government has launched a campaign to force Hebei priests and
bishops of the underground community to officially register, along with their
inscription as members of the Patriotic Association.
According to AsiaNews sources, over the past 20 years at least 20 Catholic priests
of the underground area of Zhangjiakou (Hebei), in the diocese of Xuanhua and
Xiwanzi, have been tortured and suffered tremendous pressure join the Patriotic
Association (PA) , controlled by the
Communist Party of China.
Apostolic administrator of Yujiang arrested as China attempts to "eradicate" underground Church
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.
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Fr Shao Zhoumin and Fr Jiang Sunian, who had just returned from Europe, have already spent time in prison. AsiaNews sources in China said the release of the bishop of Zhengding, Mgr Jia, was decided "for fear of popular protests" and they warned that "he could be arrested again".
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Sorrow and debate greet case of Msgr. An Shuxin
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples says it did not put pressure on Mgr. An. Underground priests complain that their bishops are in jail and they have been abandoned. The few results of the initial dialogue between China and the Vatican.
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He had been arrested for consacrating a church without the consent of the Patriotic Association. The authorities view him only as a priest, and do not allow him to preside at large-scale activities. Two priests and 20 faithful of the diocese of Xiwanzi are still in prison. In Hebei, two bishops are still "disappeared" after many years.
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