07/29/2010, 00.00
CHINA

Xiwanzi underground priest arrested again after three years in prison

Fr Peter Wang, an underground priest of the Diocese of Xiwanzi, was only able to take a few steps as a free man. The police arrested him again immediately after his release. He had been originally arrested for celebrating mass (with the permission of the government). Local Catholics: "The police want to force him to join the Patriotic Association."

Beijing (AsiaNews) – On July 24th authorities in northern Hebei province arrested Fr. Peter Wang, a priest of the Diocese of Xiwanzi. The priest was stopped immediately after being released from prison, where he spent the last three years for having celebrated a Mass with government permission. The authorities want to force Fr. Wang to join the Patriotic Association.

According Ucanews.com, some relatives of the priest were waiting - along with about 20 lay people of the diocese - outside the gates of the Tangshang Jidong prison. As the gates opened at 4 am, Fr. Wang was able to take only a few steps before being grabbed by 4 men, who pushed him into a car and brought him back into the prison.

About an hour after the gates were reopened to allow two police cars pass. The crowd stopped the car to talk to the priest. According to one source, Fr. Wang told them "not to create problems with the police. He added that he was in good health and asked us to let him go".  Several hours later, he phoned his sister to say that he was "doing well".

Catholics believe that local authorities would like Fr. Wang to “work in the light of the day by accepting the authority of the government run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association". The fast "re-arrest," they explain, comes from the fact that the police fear that the faithful will hide and protect him once back home.

Fr. Wang was arrested July 24 2007. The police took him together with two other priests from a Catholic family who had hidden them in Xilinguole (Inner Mongolia). At the trial, held on 11 November of that year, the allegations against him were finally revealed: organizing an illegal meeting [the feast for the consecration of a church in Guyuan, dedicated to the Sacred Heart], he used an official parish seal [in China legally binding signature-ed] without government permission”.

The Guyuan church was built - with the kind permission of the authorities – with the offerings of the faithful, who self-taxed themselves for two years.  Those who had no money to give volunteered for manual labour.  The consecration ceremony July 18, 2006 was attended by more than 7 thousand people, along with 21 priests and a bishop of the underground Church.

Xiwanzi diocese is a diocese of the underground Church, with 15 thousand faithful, about 260 miles north of Beijing, near the border with Inner Mongolia. For the past several years local police, incited by the PA, have carried out a campaign against priests and bishops of the underground Church. The auxiliary Bishop of the diocese, Mgr. Yao Liang, who disappeared in police custody July 30, 2006, was released in January 2009 and died after about a year.  There are 20 believers and two priests still in prison.

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