Mindong, Fr. Liu Maochun kidnapped for 17 days to force him to join the 'independent Church'
by Bernardo Cervellera

The underground priest was kidnapped by members of the Religious Affairs Bureau. This isn't the first time he's been arrested. His father, 86, and his mother, 70, are in need of his assistance. At least 20 priests of the diocese are under pressure to sign up for membership of the "independent Church".

Rome (AsiaNews) - Fr Liu Maochun, 46, a priest of the diocese of Mindong (Fujian), has been in the hands of the Religious Affairs Bureau for 17 days. Fr Liu is not recognized as a priest because he belongs to the underground Church and refuses to sign up for membership in the independent Church (which is subject to the Chinese Communist Party).

In the late afternoon of September 1st, Fr. Liu had gone to visit some sick people in the hospital. On leaving, around 6.30 pm, a group of people, sent by the Religious Affairs Bureau, arrested him and took him to an unknown location. His whereabouts is still unknown. Family members have lobbied for news of him, but to no avail. The authorities have only confirmed that he is in the hands of the Religious Affairs Bureau.

Father of Fr. Liu is 86 years old and very ill and has limited mobility; his mother, 70, is also ill: both need his help.

According to information from Mindong, several priests - at least 20 - refuse to join the "independent Church". For this they are under constant pressure from the local government and have been deprived of the freedom to treat the faithful. These pressures have grown stronger in the run-up to a possible renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement.

Fr. Liu Maochun is not new to arrest. Over the past decade he has suffered imprisonment and attempts to brainwash him.

Similar attempts at coercion concern the bishop of Mindong, Msgr. Vincenzo Guo Xijin, considered one of the "victims" of the Sino-Vatican agreement which was signed two years ago and is due to expire in the next few days. The diocese of Mindong, with an overabundance of faithful and clergy from the unofficial community, has become a kind of "pilot project" for the implementation of the agreement. Following it and the lifting of the excommunication of the official bishop Vincenzo Zhan Silu, at the request of Pope Francis, Msgr. Guo agreed to be demoted to auxiliary bishop to leave the seat of ordinary to Msgr. Zhan.

But Msgr. Guo, not having signed up to join the independent Church, was not recognized by the government. To exert greater pressure on him, the government tried to expel him from the bishopric. Fearful of bad international publicity, the authorities did not evict him, but decreed that electricity and water be cut off at the bishop's house.