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Detained Suiyuan priests released

Sources believe rogue priest may have betrayed colleagues reporter, Hohhot

February 8, 2012

Four of six “underground” priests from Suiyuan diocese, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, have been released after having been detained last week. The whereabouts of Fathers Ban Zhanxiong and Ma Mumin are still unknown, but Chu Jianli, Ding Zhanmin, Wang Hu, and Zhao Runxi, who is the new parish priest of Erenhot, were freed. Fr Gao Jiangping, the diocesan administrator who heads the “underground” community in the area, was later confirmed not among the detainees. Church sources believe the detentions were related to a dispute over the transfer of priests in Erenhot, a city near the border with Mongolia. Fr Wang Zhihua, an Erenhot priest, had rejected a recent order by Fr Gao to transfer to another parish and on January 28, according to the sources, told his parishioners he was breaking from the “underground” community. He told them the “open” community’s Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, had assigned him to be the pastor of Erenhot. Fr Gao and the detained priests went to Erenhot to settle the dispute on learning the news. But about 30 officials took six of the priests away on January 30 before they could meet. Bishop Meng confirmed giving the appointment letter to Fr Wang Zhihua. “He wanted to do pastoral work openly because security is tight at the border and underground activities are difficult.” Some sources believe Fr Wang Zhihua betrayed his colleagues to the authorities. Bishop Meng however, denied this. He said Fr Wang Zhihua had told him that he had received a phone call from someone telling him that Fr Gao wanted to meet him. But he fled when he saw policemen in a courtyard at the place where the meeting was to take place. Related report: Officials arrest ‘underground’ priests

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