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Government steps up suppression

Parishioners 'cannot lead normal life' after recent 'underground' arrests

Rector Fr Ban Zhanxiong in the Suiyuan diocesan seminary Rector Fr Ban Zhanxiong in the Suiyuan diocesan seminary
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hohhot
  • China
  • February 23, 2012
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Sources in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region said yesterday that  parishioners in Suiyuan diocese cannot lead a normal religious life as priests have been arrested or are in hiding following the arrest last week of the diocesan administrator.

The underground Church has been forced to become even more secretive to avoid being targeted by authorities, the sources said.

“We are in a more difficult situation today because the pope’s letter in 2007 has revoked special rights given to the China Church. We have lost the canonical basis for our continued survival,” said one source who asked not to be identified.

Conditions in the diocese have degraded further in the wake of the arrest of six priests on January 30.

Four of the detained priests – Fr Chu Jianli, Fr Ding Zhanmin, Fr Wang Hu and Fr Zhao Runxi – were reportedly forced to concelebrate a Mass with Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot’s “open” community along with two other open priests on February 13.

Some 20 government officials watched them throughout the Mass, which took place in Baotou city, and took the priests away afterward, sources said.

They added that the priests are compelled to undergo re-education, or brainwashing.

Bishop Meng, vice chairman of the national Catholic Patriotic Assocation, said that he was informed by government officials that a group of priests wanted to work openly and concelebrate the Mass with him in Baotou.

When asked yesterday by ucanews.com if the priests were forced to concelebrate the Mass with him, he said: “I don’t know.”

He added that an estimated one-fifth of the 80 attendees of the Mass were underground Catholics.

“Two of them pulled Fathers Ding and Wang away when they were entering the Church at the beginning of the Mass. After some disturbances, the two priests went up onto the altar during the homily,” he said.

Sources said that many underground Catholics have been perplexed by the Holy See’s decision not to take disciplinary action against Bishop Meng and other Vatican-approved bishops after their participation in the illicit episcopal ordination in Chengde in 2010.

“Some underground priests have gradually changed their minds. They think that since Rome considers Bishop Meng ‘no problem,’ then why should they stick to the Church principle which their predecessors defended with their lives?” a source said.

Concelebrating Mass with an open bishop who holds a post in the CPA, which is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, is a common practice for underground clergy in getting government recognition. Those who meet the requirement will receive a “priest card” to allow them to work openly.

On February 14, government officials came to seal up the diocesan seminary and disband all seminarians. Rector Fr Ban Zhanxiong, who was arrested on January 30, is still in detention.

Fr Gao Jiangping, the underground administrator who leads about 30 priests, was arrested together with Fr Zhao Fu in Hohhot the following day. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Related reports

Detained Suiyuan priests released
Officials arrest ‘underground’ priests

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