Wuhan (AsiaNews) - Wuhan priests are suffering grave interference by government officials in their decision on the transfer of parish priests and in suspension of Father Shen Guo'an's duties as the head of diocese. This while the attention of Catholics and the entire world is focused on Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, stripped of his title of Bishop of Shanghai.
According to information given to AsiaNews, 19 of 23 priests of Wuhan diocese decided at a retreat in late November that they would have a reshuffle of parish pastors, a practice that has not been implemented there for years. However, some priests received warnings of the transfer from religious officials, who also said the meeting was invalid and illegal.
On Nov. 30, Father Shen announced the priest transfer during a solemn Mass in the diocese that marked the beginning of the Year of Faith. Parish delegates and faithful at the Mass welcomed the transfer. Afterwards, priests were interrogated by government officials and warned of any changes.
Father Cui Qingqi, who was absent in the priests' meeting because of his studies in Beijing, was recalled by the authorities upon hearing his transfer. On Dec. 1 morning, he returned to Hankou but was seen to be with government officials before arriving at the diocese.
On Dec. 8, despite difficulties levied by officials, the priests in Wuhan resolutely implemented the transfer decision, by sending new appointment letters to all parish priests and letters of notification to government departments for their record.
On Dec. 13, 15 priests of the diocese were escorted by officials to attend a meeting called by religious officials. The priests were told that Fr Shen was dismissed from his duties as the head of the diocese, and Fr Shu Zigeng, secretary general of Provincial Patriotic Association and Church Affairs Commission, was also dismissed from his position.
Instead, a Church management committee, led by Father Cui, has been arranged to take over diocese matters. Members include Sister Wu Lin (vice president of national Patriotic Association), Fr Li Bangmeng, Fr Gao Leiqing, and Hu Guowei, Patriotic Association member.
Reacting to this case, researchers of Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong question why the freedom of religious belief as guaranteed in China's constitution is being so heavily interfered with; why the parish transfer of priests is not respected as an internal affair and normal practice in the Church.
The biggest fear is that the intrusion of the authorities in the appointment of parish priests and the resignation of Fr. Shen is a first step to bring the diocese of Wuhan in a state of excommunication and rupture.
 It should be noted that the government had designated Fr. Shen Guoan as bishop of Wuhan, but without the permission of the Holy See. The faithful and the same Fr. Shen had refused to participate in an illicit episcopal ordination. Perhaps his forced resignation is a revenge of the PA (see Chinese bishops should have no fear and say no to Beijing's demands, says Mgr Savio Hon, AsiaNews.it, 03/06/2011)