Chinese authorities arrest bishop, priests and seminarians
The police took a prelate and clandestine collaborators to a hotel for “political sessions”.
To Western ears, the Chinese city of Xinxiang could well be confused with the province of Xinjiang. But despite the spelling similarity, differentiated only by a letter in Western transliteration, XinXiang is about 3,000 miles east of XinJiang and, culturally, very different.
But last week, measures taken by Chinese authorities gave Xinxiang, a city of about 5 million people in Henan province, and Xinjiang, the northwestern autonomous region of China, inhabited by Uyghur Muslims, something in common.
Because while the People’s Republic of China has embarked on a campaign of sinicization of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, amounting to a re-education crusade which has been marked by violations of religious freedom, the authorities are also imposing this sinization on the Church. local Catholic in Xinxiang.
“Authorities in northern China have arrested a Catholic bishop appointed by the Vatican, his seven priests and an unknown number of seminarians in what is considered part of a new crackdown on the underground Catholic Church in the communist country “, The Asian Catholic News Union (UCANews) reported on Monday. “Police arrested Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu, 63, of the Xinxiang Diocese in Henan Province on May 21, a day after detaining priests and seminarians for allegedly violating the country’s repressive new regulations on religious affairs.
Asia News, also on Monday, reported that Bishop Zhang and 10 priests were taken to a hotel where they are being held in solitary confinement and subjected to “political sessions.”
UCANews pointed out that Zhang was secretly appointed bishop in 1991, because his appointment by the Vatican had not been approved by the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Zhang has been arrested in the past, but this time the authorities had new rules for charging him. These rules, enacted by the Chinese Communist Party, require the clergy to register with the state and order lay Catholics to democratically elect their bishops..
UCANews pointed out that these precepts ignore an agreement the Vatican reached with Beijing in 2018 and which was renewed last fall, which “would have agreed to appoint bishops by common accord, ending the conflict between the state appointing Catholic bishops without the Vatican mandate. ” The press service continued:
Dioceses headed by Vatican-approved bishops are part of the underground church not aligned with the state. The regulations, say local Catholics, aim to end the underground church by criminalizing and arresting its clergy while working outside the state-approved clergy database. …
Since the deal went into effect, the Vatican has approved seven Beijing-appointed bishops, but the state-sanctioned church has approved and installed five Vatican-appointed bishops.
Bishop Zhang, who heads the diocese of 100,000 Catholics, was not approved by the state church even after the Sino-Vatican accord was signed.
The underground bishop has been under continuous pressure from state authorities, UCANews said: “Local Catholics have said that a government appointed administrator has been running the diocese since 2010 and reports directly to the state. The bishop does not have the right to manage diocesan finances and resources. “
Arrests at the seminary
The arrests last week came after the diocese decided to use an abandoned factory building as a seminary. AsiaNews said 13 students who had been arrested “were returned to their families and barred from furthering their theological studies.”
The media claimed that around 100 policemen surrounded the building the day before Bishop Zhang’s arrest. As the police deployment continues, a manhunt is underway to search for other seminarians who have allegedly fled to avoid arrests.
Last year, authorities in Xinxiang closed Catholic schools and kindergartens in accordance with the Chinese Communist Party’s ban on education for religious groups, including the Catholic Church, reported Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious freedom and human rights.
Authorities accused Christian groups of proselytizing and converting children through charity work and of violating a crackdown in the new regulations.