Xinxiang: Arrested bishop and priests subjected to political sessions. Seminary dissolved
3 other seminarians arrested. All 13 were taken home. Forbidden to study theology. According to some believers, the political sessions are an attempt at "brainwashing". The Agreement between the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Holy See has no input into the life of Christian communities: that is exclusively managed by the United Front.
Rome (AsiaNews) - The bishop of Xinxiang and the 10 priests arrested in recent days were taken to a hotel where they are being held in solitary confinement and already subjected yesterday to "political sessions" that the faithful define "brainwashing", to inculcate the principles of religious freedom granted by the Party.
Msgr. Giuseppe Zhang Weizhu, 63, has been bishop of the diocese of Xinxiang (Henan) since 1991. However, while he is recognized by the Holy See he is not by the Chinese government and this makes him a "criminal".
Similarly, the 10 arrested priests are also "criminals" because they refuse to adhere to membership of the so-called "independent Church" and submission to the Chinese Communist Party, as required by the New Regulations on Religious Activities.
Bishop Zhang and his priests were arrested on May 20 and 21 in a large police operation involving 100 policemen from Cangzhou, Hejian, and Shaheqiao. 10 students who were receiving theology lessons in a factory made available for the purpose by a Catholic were also arrested. Later, three other students who fled were arrested. The young people were handed over to their families and forbidden to continue studying theology.
In China, the New Regulations allow religious activities (including theology schools) only in government registered and controlled institutions; religious personnel can carry out their functions only if they adhere to the "independent" (from the Holy See) Church and submit to the Party.
The agreement between the Vatican and the People's Republic of China has not changed the substance of this control: The Holy See has signed the agreement with the foreign ministry, which considers it a foreign state. But the activities of churches and religions in China are managed by the United Front and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Any agreement with the foreign ministry has no impact on the management of the Church.
For this reason, although the Agreement recognizes the Pope as the head of the universal Catholic Church (and therefore also of the Chinese Church), this does not lead to any consequences or freedom for local communities. On the contrary, after the Agreement, there has been an increase in persecution, especially against unofficial communities: there are bishops under house arrest, such as Msgr. Jia Zhiguo; bishops who have been cut off from water, electricity and gas, such as Msgr. Guo Xijin; bishops who cannot be hosted by their own faithful, such as Msgr. Shao Zhumin; bishops subjected to political sessions and "brainwashing", such as Msgr. Zhang Weizhu.