06/25/2004, 00.00
china - vatican
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Abducted bishops forced to obey government and not Pope

Beijing (AsiaNews) - A representative of the Religious Affairs Office (RAO) claims that Bishop Zhao Zhengdong was not arrested, denying the accusations made by the Vatican the previous day.  But AsiaNews sources have stated  that a campaign is underway to force all bishops of the unofficial Church to subject themselves to the Communist Party and to break ties with the Pope.
Liu Yongqing, member of the RAO said yesterday that "Mr. Zhao Zhengdong was not arrested" and explained that "our offices organizes courses for local clergy that teach our religious policy.  This course began at the end of May and finished in the middle of June".  Mrs Liu also specified that the bishop attended the course "voluntarily".

Last June 23rd, the Vatican Press Office had expressed its "profound pain" for the arrest of Monsignor Zhao Zhengdong.  The 84-year-old bishop was taken into custody by police and his place of detention is not known.

The Vatican said it was worried also by the arrest of two of bishops of the underground Church, Msgr Jia Zhiguo, Bishop of Zhengding, arrested from June 13 to 18, and Msgr Leo Yaoliang, Coadujtor Bishop of Xiwanzi, heldin custody by police from June 2nd to 12. On June 13, the Trappist father,Placido Pei Ronggui, was arrested and released June 18.

The Vatican said all these coercive measures were "inconceivable under the rule of law and contravened those human rights, especially that of religious freedom, which are guaranteed by numerous international documents, which include the People's Republic of China as signatory".

According to the RAO, the bishop has returned to his church in Shangyingzhuang. The police of that area also denied that the bishop was detained against his will.

According to Chinese sources of AsiaNews, these "voluntary" detainments are actually fully-fledged abductions of defenceless persons, aimed at indoctrinating and convincing bishops and priests of the underground Church to enter the Patriotic Association, the organization that controls the Catholic Church in China.

AsiaNews was able to obtain a sample of a discussion that actually took place between authorities and bishops:

Security authorities ask the bishop: "Who do you obey?  The Government of Beijing or the Pope?".  The Bishop specifies: "In the questions of faith, I respond to the Pope, in society I respond to the Government".  The authorities: "This is not acceptable.  Since your Church is in China, you must obey the Government above all."

Since 2000, government control has increased even with regard to the officially recognized Church.  More than 80% of the bishops named by Beijing in these past years have secretly requested the recognition of and reconciliation with the Holy See, labelling as useless the attempts of the Communist Party to create a National Church in China.  Seminarians, priests and bishops
of the official Church, at various times of the year, are subjected to months of "training" on the Government's religious policy.  In the long months of political sessions, lessons are given on Marxism and the importance of the undisputed leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

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