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Three 'stubborn' Chinese priests held, as bishop goes free

Authorities try to force underground clerics to attend 'learning classes'

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Updated: May 11, 2017 09:41 AM GMT
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Three 'stubborn' Chinese priests held, as bishop goes free

Father Guo Xijin (now bishop) of Mindong was detained at a government-run hostel in Fuan in 2006. The day he was released, three priests from the diocese were detained. (ucanews.com photo)

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Three underground priests from Mindong Diocese in eastern China were briefly detained the same day Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin was freed on May 6 after one month's detention.

Fathers Zhu Ruci, Xu Wenmin and Peng Zhenshen, vicar general, chancellor and procurator of the diocese respectively, were summoned to a so-called learning class to study religious regulations the same day Bishop Guo returned to Luojiang village, the headquarters of the diocese.

The three priests were supposed to undergo a class lasting just over a week.

"The brainwashing class was meant to run for 10 days but the three priests returned after three days because officials found them too stubborn," a church source told ucanews.com.

Officials had earlier informed the diocese that the underground bishop — who is not recognized by the Chinese government and who was released the same day the three priests were detained — had to attend a similar class for 20 days. They took him away before the start of Holy Week, the source said. 

 

A seven-story building of Mindong Diocese was inaugurated in Luojiang village, near Fuan city, in Fujian province in 2008. Bishop Guo Xijin of Mindong returned to Luojiang on May 6 after one month in detention. (ucanews.com photo)

 

'Psychological collapse'

"The bishop was placed in a location usually reserved for government officials under shuanggui [the Communist Party's internal discipline process]. Two security officers were stationed outside his room while three others slept in the room with him," he said.

The shuanggui process is designed to make tainted government officials confess at a designated time and location about their wrongdoings.

"The environment is created to make one psychologically collapse. We heard that most corrupt officials confess within three days and the longest duration was only seven days," the source said.

"However, it is ineffective on religious people like Bishop Guo who consider it a retreat," he said.

Fujian, with a Catholic population of 370,000, is a stronghold of the underground community. The vast majority of the estimated 80,000 Catholics in Mindong Diocese belong to the underground community served by about 50 priests and over 100 nuns.

The open church community, with a few thousand Catholics, is led by Bishop Zhan Silu. He is one of seven government-appointed bishops whose case China and the Vatican would like to settle in their negotiations. However, the Vatican hesitated to recognize him as they have already appointed Bishop Guo.

The government considers the underground community an illegal religious group and continually tries to get underground Catholics to join the approved version of the Catholic Church.

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