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Friday, February 24, 2006

Two underground priests arrested in Hebei

The local Patriotic Association is engaged in a ruthless province-wide campaign against underground Catholics. One of those arrested served as episcopal vicar; his whereabouts are still unknown.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The Hebei Patriotic Association is not slowing down its campaign of persecution against China’s underground Catholic Church. Reports today indicate that two underground priests, Lu Genjun, 44, and Guo Yanli, 39, have been arrested. Chinese sources told AsiaNews that Father Lu served as episcopal vicar in a province where three bishops have disappeared: Mgr Han Dingxian, underground bishop of Yongnian: Mgr James Su Zhimin, 72 anni, ordinary bishop of Baoding who vanished in 1996, and Mgr Francis An Shuxin, 54, auxiliary bishop of Baoding who was arrested in 1997 and has not been heard from ever since. Last November 18, six priests from the diocese of Zhengding were also arrested.

In announcing the arrest, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said that the two were detained by Chinese security officials on February 17 while waiting for a friend at the Baoding train station. Father Lu was sent to an undisclosed location while Father Guo was sent to Xushui County detention centre.

Ordained in 1998, Father Lu has been arrested three times; the first time on April 5, 1998, Palm Sunday, soon after taking his vows. He was arrested again shortly before Easter in 2001 and detained for three years in the Gao Yang County labour camp in Hebei. Soon after his release from the labour camp, he was arrested again on May 14, 2004, for an unknown period.

Proportionately, Hebei province has the highest number of Catholics who are 1.5 million-strong. Underground Catholics are by far the majority.

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