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China detains underground Catholic administrator

Father John Peng Weizhao missing since May 30

China detains underground Catholic administrator

An underground church in Yujiang diocese. correspondent, Hong Kong

June 9, 2014

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Father John Peng Weizhao, apostolic administrator of Yujiang diocese, has been in detention at an unknown location for nearly two weeks, Church sources in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi have revealed.

Father Peng was taken from a priest’s residence in Linchuan district, Fuzhou city, on May 30, a source told on Monday. The reasons for his disappearance have not been made public.

“Priests who were at the scene when Father Peng was taken recognized that religious affairs officials from Linchuan district were present,” the source said. “But when they went to the officials to ask for his whereabouts last week, the officials claimed that they know nothing as it was an action of the provincial government.

“The priests are reluctant to speculate on the reason for his detention over the phone as they themselves are also under surveillance.”

Father Peng, who is part of the unregistered Catholic community, was appointed administrator of Yujiang by the Holy See in 2012, following the retirement of underground Bishop Thomas Zeng Jingmu.

In Jiangxi, the government-sanctioned open community combined all five dioceses into one Jiangxi diocese in 1985, while the unregistered community continued to follow the jurisdiction of the Holy See. Of the three existing Vatican-approved bishops in the province, Bishop Zeng is the only prelate who is not recognized by the government.

The news of Father Peng’s disappearance coincided with a report in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post which cited a source close to the Holy See as saying that Beijing and the Vatican will resume talks soon.

“The Vatican was now waiting for Beijing to confirm the time and location of the talks,” the newspaper reported on June 8.

“The atmosphere is quite positive for both sides to restart dialogue now” as changes of leadership on both sides have created an opportunity for communication,” the source said.

Yet the English-language daily also noted that the mass demolition of churches in Wenzhou and the election of a state-sanctioned bishop in Chengdu may hinder efforts to bridge major differences.

Dialogue between the two sides halted in October 2010 when the open Church ordained an illicit bishop without a papal mandate and hosted the National Catholic Congress in December after seeing 10 bishops ordained with dual approval from Beijing and the Holy See.

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