03/26/2018, 12.24
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Inner Mongolia, an underground priest expelled from his parish: forced to be a farmer

by Wang Zhicheng

United Front Officers escorted him to his village, forcing him to abandon his ministry. Alternating threats and bribes to make him enrol in the Patriotic Association. "Even the Holy See has now made compromises". The implementation of the new regulations, to wipe out underground communities.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Fr. Ding Zhanmin, parish priest in Beishaliang (Baotoukun district, Hohot archdiocese, Inner Mongolia), was forced to abandon his parish and return to the countryside to work as a farmer in Xilin Gol (also in Inner Mongolia). His expulsion took place on March 19, under the escort of officials from the Baotou Religious Affairs Bureau.

United Front Department agents - responsible for religious affairs - had spoken many times with Fr. Ding, alternating threats and bribes. The priest belongs to the underground community which is not registered with the government.

The United Front officers wanted to convince him to join the Patriotic Association,  the organ that controls the Church and wants to build an "independent" Church (from the Holy See), a principle that is "irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine", as the Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to Chinese Catholics states.

As has also happened in other situations, officials tried to bribe the priest with promises of cash and aid for the parish. However, underground priests depend only on the charity of the faithful, who are very poor in regions like Inner Mongolia.

One faithful tells: "Fr. Ding remained faithful to his conscience and the principles gained in the underground Church over the years. In the end he had nothing left but to lose his parish and return to being a farmer".

Fr. Ding’s parish will now be passed on to priests of the official community, members of the Patriotic Association, who will administer the celebrations of the Easter Triduum.

"The faithful - says a source - were disconsolate and confused. I believe that most of them will refuse to follow this new course imposed by the government ".

According to witnesses close to Fr. Ding, the United Front is pushing priests to join the PA, stressing that "even the Holy See has now made compromises".

In fact, since the so-called dialogue between China and the Holy See got under way, the rumour is spreading that membership of the PA no longer poses any problem.

Many priests of the underground Church have turned to the Holy See for clarification, but without receiving an answer.

In any case, the expulsion of Fr. Ding from his parish and the ban he has been issued on exercising his priestly ministry follow the directives of the new regulations on religious activities, launched last February 1, which provide for arrests, fines and expropriations for unofficial communities.

Father Ding is not new to the government harassment: he was arrested along with four other priests in a police raid in January 2012.

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