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Priest of underground Catholic Church in Xiwanzi, Qiaodong District, Hebei province arrested

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beijing  (AsiaNews)

A group of law enforcement officers stopped Fr. Song Wanjun of the clergy of Xiwanzi, while driving his car at 4 in the morning. Place of detention unknown. The Northern Province, stronghold of Catholic China, still targeted by the authorities.

AsiaNews.it recently reported that the Rev. Song Wanjun, priest of the underground Catholic Church in Xiwanzi, Qiaodong District, Hebei province was detained by 10 law enforcement officials at 4 a.m., Aug. 7 while he was driving. The news of Rev. Song’s arrest has been confirmed by the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation.

The Diocese of Xiwanzi is located in the northern part of Hubei province, which, in recent years, has faced harsh treatment from the Chinese government. According to AsiaNews.it sources, at least 20 Catholic priests is the Zhangjiakou area of Hebei have been detained in the past 20 years. These priests have been tortured and pressured to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Retired Pope Benedict XVI has described, in a letter to the Chinese Church, the TSPM as being “incompatible” with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Priests persecuted over the years include Monsignor Yao Ling, the Rev. Li Huisheng, the Rev. Wang Zhong, Monsignor James Su Zhimin, and Monsignor Cosma Shi Enxiang. Monsignor Yao has since died while the Revs. Li and Wang were sentenced to seven and three years in prison, respectively. Monsignor Zhimin, currently 82-year-old, bishop of Baoding, was arrested Oct. 8, 1997 on charges unknown. Also unknown is whether Monsignor Zhimin ever received a trial and where he is being detained. He was briefly located receiving medical care at a Baoding hospital in November 2003, according to AisaNews.it. Unfortunately, after a rushed visit with relatives, Monsignor Zhimin once again vanished. Finally, Monsignor Cosma, 92, bishop of Yixian, was arrested on April 13, 2001. Unlike Monsignor Zhimin, there are no signs of Monsignor Cosma’s whereabouts.

Hebei province is the one of the areas with the largest Catholic population. “The diocese of Baoding alone, one of the largest and with the strongest presence of underground Catholics, has at least 50 thousand Catholics. There are 120 priests, official and underground,” the article on AisaNews.it stated.
Rev. Song, 39, became an ordained priest 11 years ago. Since becoming ordained, the priest spent years in Zhangbei county and Chongli county before being assigned to Xiwanzi.

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