China Releases Diocesan Administrator

STAMFORD, Connecticut, JUNE 6, 2005 ( A 75-year-old priest of the underground Catholic Church was released by Chinese authorities two months after his arrest, a report says.

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Father Thomas Zhao KeXun, 75, administrator of the Diocese of Xuanhua, in Hebei province, was released June 1, according to Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based watchdog group.

On April 2, as Pope John Paul II was dying, the Holy See announced the priest’s arrest in mainland China, in addition to that of two bishops and a layman.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls revealed at the time that Chinese police had arrested Father Zhao on March 30 «as he was returning from a funeral.» The Vatican said the reason for his arrest was unknown.

The Kung Foundation said that the priest was arrested when returning home after celebrating a Mass in a private home in Shadifang, a few miles from his residence in Zhaijiazhuang.

According to China’s new laws on religious freedom, priests and faithful who meet in private homes or places outside the state’s control are persecuted as delinquents or conspirators against the public order.

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