Vatican Wants Bishops and Priests Freed in China

Notes Recent Seizures and a Death

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See appealed for the release of numerous bishops and priests arrested by China, and said that one jailed prelate died in obscurity.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls revealed that “only now” the Holy See has learned about several arrests which took place a month ago.

“In the first week of August, Reverend Father Paul Huo Junlong, vicar general of the Baoding Diocese (Hebei province) was detained by the police together with seven other priests and two seminarians,” he said in a press statement issued Saturday.

“Priests Paul An Jianzhao and John Baptist Zhang Zhenquan were sentenced to a period of re-education through forced labor. The others are probably still detained in Quyang (Baoding), with the exception of three who do not belong to this diocese,” the document added.

“According to information that arrived here on Sept. 6, 2004, there are 23 members of the clergy of the Diocese of Baoding detained or deprived of their freedom,” the Vatican spokesman said.

“Among them is Bishop James Su Zhimin and his auxiliary, Monsignor Francis An Shuxin, who disappeared in the months of September 1997 and March 1996, respectively, and are kept without trial in a secret place,” Navarro Valls added.

“Subsequently, the diocesan administrator of the Archdiocese of Fuzhou was arrested, together with two priests and one seminarian. To date, they have not been set free,” the statement revealed.

“The Holy See has no information on the motives for these repressive measures. If the new information that has arrived is true, once again we will be facing a serious violation of the freedom of religion, which is a fundamental right of man,” the Vatican noted.

“The Holy See appeals for respect of this right, sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man and is confident that freedom will be restored to all the persons mentioned as soon as possible so that they can carry out their pastoral commitment in the service of the respective Catholic communities,” the statement said.

Navarro Valls said that the Vatican learned that, “at the end of August, Bishop John Gao Kexian of Yantai (in Shandong province) died in prison at the age of 76. The prelate’s body was handed over to his relatives by the police. Bishop Gao had been in prison since the end of the ’90s; there had been no news of him for some time.”

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