China Releases Priest Under House Arrest Since '99

HONG KONG, JULY 6, 2005 ( Chinese authorities have released an ailing 34-year-old priest who spent nearly six years under house arrest.

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Father Vincent Kong Guocun is a member of the «underground» Church which recognizes the Pope’s authority but is not officially approved by Beijing.

News of his release, verified June 8, was reported by Eglises d’Asie, an agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris, and echoed by Vatican Radio.

Father Kong, of the Wenzhou Diocese in the Zhejiang province, was arrested Oct. 20, 1999, shortly after the second anniversary of his priestly ordination.

According to Chinese Catholic sources, the priest’s health has deteriorated and he was released for medical reasons.

During the early days of his detention, Father Kong was isolated from outside contact. Only later, his parents were allowed to pay him occasional visits, said the sources. Government officials alleged that Father Kong was «too stubborn» and not cooperative, the sources added.

His detention is the second longest among the Wenzhou clergy. «Underground» Bishop James Lin Xili, 84, is still confined to the cathedral of the official Wenzhou community, and has not enjoyed freedom of movement since September 1999.

According to AsiaNews, there are 18 bishops and 20 priests in detention by authorities.

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