China Denies Bishop Was Arrested

BEIJING, JUNE 25, 2004 ( In the wake of Vatican criticism, the Chinese Religious Affairs Office has denied that Bishop Zhao Zhengdong is in government custody.

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Religious Affairs official Liu Yongqing said that “Mr. Zhao Zhengdong was not arrested.” Instead, he said, the bishop had “voluntarily” attended courses “for local clergy that teach our religious policy. This course began at the end of May and finished in mid-June.”

On Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls expressed the Holy See’s “deep pain” over the arrest of an 84-year-old bishop, whom it did not name.

The Chinese Religious Affairs Office said that the elderly prelate has been allowed to return to his church in Shangyingzhuang. Local police have denied that the bishop was held against his will.

The Vatican has also expressed concern for Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zheng Ding, detained June 13-18, and Coadjutor Bishop Leo Yaoliang of Xiwanzi, two members of the clergy of China’s underground Church.

According to AsiaNews, sources have said “a campaign is under way to force all bishops of the unofficial Church to subject themselves to the Communist Party and to break ties with the Pope.”

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