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China tightens grip on Church, forces bishops to attend meeting

Catholic World News - December 07, 2010

China’s Communist regime is forcing dozens of bishops to attend a meeting in Beijing to elect a new president of the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, according to AsiaNews. Some bishops have gone into hiding in order to avoid attending the meeting; others are attending but will refuse to concelebrate with those state-appointed bishops who are not in communion with the Holy See.

Pope Benedict XVI referred to the association in his 2007 letter to the Church in China:

In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops, have encountered difficulties, since persons who are not “ordained,” and sometimes not even baptized, control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops, in the name of various State agencies. Consequently, we have witnessed a demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries by virtue of a vision of the Church according to which the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and the priests risk becoming de facto persons without office and without power.

“The most serious and obvious violence occurred in Hengshui (Hebei), where [Bishop] Feng Xinmao was seized by about 100 police officers and government representatives, who fought for hours against the faithful and priests who were shielding their bishop in an attempt to ensure his freedom,” AsiaNews reported. “After a siege lasting hours, the bishop was again arrested and … was dragged to Beijing to attend the meeting.”

Police have also threatened to engage in a nationwide manhunt for Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, a prelate who has gone into hiding to avoid attending the meeting.

The news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is reporting that a parish in Bishop Li’s diocese marked the feast of St. Francis Xavier on December 3 with a solemn Mass and procession “to intensify and deepen the meaning of missionary, the sense of Christian identity, to revive the mission of evangelization.” The parish, Fides reports, “has carried out an intense mission of evangelization in all fields (catechetical, pastoral care, social and charitable).”

The Diocese of Cangzhou has 75,000 Catholics, almost 100 priests, and 206 churches and chapels. Bishop Li was ordained with the approval of both the Holy See and Communist authorities.

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