Drive Launched for Liberation of Chinese Clergy

AsiaNews Appeals on Behalf of 19 Bishops and 18 Priests

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2005 ( AsiaNews agency has launched a campaign to liberate 19 bishops and 18 priests arrested or otherwise prevented from carrying out their ministry in China.

The news service of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions initiated the campaign together with the Holy Spirit Study Center of Hong Kong, and various Christian communities and Web sites in Europe.

The campaign published a list of Chinese bishops and priests who have disappeared, are being detained, or who have been locked up in labor and re-education camps, or are for other reasons kept from performing their ministry.

«These ecclesiastics are all part of the so-called underground Church, made up of Catholics who refuse the government’s minute and asphyxiating control over religious activity, preferring to practice their faith outside of official and registered structures,» reported AsiaNews.

«They do so not to challenge the government, but to demand religious freedom which, even if only in theory, is guaranteed by China’s Constitution, as well as to maintain fidelity to the Pope, a bond which Beijing wants to undermine,» adds the agency.

Among those listed are six bishops, ages 50 to 83, who have been arrested and have disappeared while in the hands of police. One was arrested as long ago as 1996.

«Despite pressure exerted by various international figures, the government has always remained silent about them, leaving us to fear the worst,» said the agency.

Another 13 bishops are «under de facto house arrest,» reported the agency.

«They are constantly kept under tight surveillance and cannot exercise their ministry in public or receive visits from the faithful and their priests. Most of them are around 80 years old,» said AsiaNews.

«Their only ‘crime’ is to have refused to register with the Patriotic Association, the organization set up by the government to control the Church which, as part of its agenda, still aims to establish a Church separated from the Pope,» states AsiaNews.

«Many of them, such as Bishop Jia Zhiguo, are famous for their charity and generosity in caring, at their own expense, for hundreds of abandoned children,» continued the agency.

«There is also a list of 18 priests, some of whom have disappeared under detention; others who have been condemned to 3 or more years of labor camp,» it added.

AsiaNews asks all those who wish to support this campaign to send a message to Chinese representations worldwide.

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