Vatican condemns reported arrests of Catholic priests in China

The Vatican denounced the reported arrests of several Catholic faithful in China last month, calling such actions “a grave violation of freedom of religion.”

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Holy See had only just learned that in the first week of August, police rounded up eight priests and two seminary students of the Baoding diocese in Hebei province, a stronghold of Catholic activism in China.

Two of the priests were sentenced to “a period of re-education through forced labour,” Navarro-Valls said in a statement Saturday, while several of the others were being detained in Baoding.

“According to the information received here, as of Sept. 6, 2004, the number of clergy members of the Baoding diocese detained or deprived of liberty is 23,” including a bishop and his auxiliary who disappeared in 1996 and 1997, the spokesman said.

Also, Navarro-Valls said, “the administrator of the Fuzhou archdiocese was arrested, along with two priests and one seminarist. At the moment, it is not clear that they have been returned to freedom.”

“The reasons for such repressive measures have not been made known to the Holy See. If the received news turns out to be true, we find ourselves once again faced with a grave violation of freedom of religion, which is a fundamental right of man,” he said.

China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in churches approved by a state-controlled church group that does not recognize the Pope’s authority. Many Chinese Catholics, however, remain loyal to the Vatican and risk arrest by worshipping in unofficial churches and private homes.

In mid-August, a U.S.-based religious monitoring group reported that police in northern China had detained the eight priests and two students from the underground Catholic Church in a raid on a religious retreat.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday September 12, 2004.
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