Two Underground Roman Catholic Priests Detained in China

( [email protected] ) May 19, 2004 03:47 PM EDT

Authorities in northern China detained two priests from the underground Roman Catholic Church as they were about to begin classes on family planning and moral theology, a Connecticut-based lobby group said Monday.

Lu Genjun, 42, and Cheng Xiaoli, 40, both underground Roman Catholic priests were arrested on May 14 by Chinese government security officers in An Guo, a city in the Hebei province. Police have refused to comment on the report.

Lu, ordained in 1990, is currently being detained in the police detention center of Dingzhou, Hebei. He was previously arrested on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1998 for a short people and again shortly before Easter in 2001, after which he was detained for three years in the Gao Yang Country labor camp in Hebei. He had recently been released from the labor camp before last week’s arrest.

Cheng, ordained in 1991, belonged to the underground Roman Catholic Diocese of An Guo, Hebei. The location of his present detainment is unknown.

Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation stated, “In recent years, the Holy Sees has on numerous occasions shown its earnest desire to continue dialogue with the Chinese government. During the past 2 months, the spokesperson of the Pope expressed serious concern about the arrest of these two underground bishops. It is disappointing to see China again arrested these two underground priests within such a short time. The arrest of Father Lu and Father Cheng is yet another in a litany of examples of the ongoing religious persecution in China. This proves that religious persecution is not something of the past even with the current booming Chinese economy.”

The Stamford, Connecticut-based foundation promotes the persecuted Roman Catholic Church in China through prayers, financial support and other projects, and also monitors efforts to suppress it. The Hebei province, neighboring Beijing, is a stronghold of Catholic sentiment. According to the Associated Press, a number of priests there have been detained, some for years.

China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in churches approved by the China Patriotic Catholic Association, a state-controlled body. However, while the state church claims 4 million believers, the unofficial church still accounts for 12 million followers, according the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

Protestants are also required to worship in state-sanctioned churches, and independent church organizers and worshippers are routinely harassed and detained.