ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: December 15, 2016 09:07 AM GMT
Self-styled "bishop" Father Paul Dong Guanhwa (holding a staff) celebrates Mass somewhere in China's northern Hebei province. (Photo supplied)
A self-styled "bishop" from an underground community in China's northern Hebei province has been detained by the authorities.
News of the arrest of self-styled "bishop," Father Paul Dong Guanhwa of Zhengding, 58, became known after a message was posted on his blog on Dec. 9 which said security officers had taken him away at midnight and that his whereabouts were unknown.
An ucanews.com reporter phoned Father Dong's cell phone on Dec. 12, which he answered and confirmed that security officers had taken him away and that he had not returned to his parish.
"I don't even know where I am now," Father Dong said.
The line went dead when he said he believed he was detained because he refused to join the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and that he didn't want to be managed by the authorities. He could not be reached again.
Catholics in China accuse the CPA of controlling the church for the government and that its advocacy of independence from the pope is incompatible to church doctrine.
Father Dong's arrest also comes weeks after he gave an interview to the BBC where he said he didn't support negotiations between the Vatican and Beijing which seeks to resolve the issue of bishop appointments.
Earlier in December before his arrest, Father Dong wrote on his blog saying that government officials had offered to help him if he wanted to become a bishop with dual approval from the government and the Vatican.
"I said, 'I would rather be illegitimate than have dual approval.' It is fine as long as our episcopal ordination is valid," he wrote.
Father Dong announced on May 22 that he had been secretly ordained a bishop 11 years ago. He made public his "episcopal" status by wearing his mitre and holding his staff on Sept. 11, according to a source in Zhengding, an underground community stronghold and a province that has about 1 million Catholics.
Catholics in Hebei believed Father Dong was arrested because Christmas is coming and the open church community will convene the Ninth National Congress of Catholic Representatives shortly after Christmas.
The underground community of Zhengding Diocese is led by Vatican-approved Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo who issued a statement on Sept. 13 stating that Father Dong has incurred automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See according to Canon Law Article 1382 for accepting episcopal consecration without papal approval.