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Bishop and vicar general detained again

HONG KONG (UCAN): Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua, Hebei, China, was detained again on March 29, while his vicar general, Father Zhang Jianlin was taken into custody by officials from the provincial religious department on March 28, amid a long-running dispute between a group of Beijing-affiliated priests and the unofficial community in the northern Chinese province.
 
A source in the unofficial Catholic community said that government officials took the bishop into custody early in the morning after he received a text message on his mobile phone informing him of his pending arrest. His whereabouts are unknown.
 
Father Zhang, meanwhile, was detained by officials from the provincial religious department on March 28, the source said, adding he had faced severe travel restrictions since his identity papers were confiscated.
 
Bishop Cui has been regularly detained by the provincial government. He was released in January and promptly issued a letter urging his congregation to accept the leadership of the vicar general and the diocesan board (Sunday Examiner, February 17).
 
“The government’s aim is to paralyse the diocese. If the diocese fails to manage the community, then the government will use this as an opportunity to take it over,” a priest from the unofficial community, who declined to be named, said.
 
He said control of the diocese would then be handed to the official Church.
 
Another source and a member of the unofficial congregation said complaints had been made to the Vatican but Rome had fallen silent on the issue and the plight endured by communities across China.
 
He said the last time the Vatican spoke out against suppression came after the German ambassador to China expressed public concern for Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, who was detained in 2017.
 
“This is why the Vatican is silently complicit in the disappearance of Church leaders from underground communities,” he said.
 
Critics claim that the Vatican has adopted a go-soft policy in China, with negotiations aimed at restoring ties between Beijing and the Holy See taking precedence over the plight of parishioners of the unofficial Church, which claims government-appointed priests are simply a prop for the atheist central government.

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