. China News .

Chinese bishops 'taken away' by police: report
by Staff Writers
Vatican City (AFP) July 11, 2011

Four bishops loyal to the Vatican have been "taken away" by Chinese police in recent days to take part in a state-sanctioned ordination, the Catholic news agency AsiaNews said on Monday.

"Nobody knows where the four pastors are being held," the report said, adding that local sources had told AsiaNews that one of the bishops "was sobbing last night as he was dragged away by government representatives."

The Vatican and China have been locked in a bitter struggle in recent months over control of the Catholic Church in China, with the Vatican saying that ordinations being carried out by the official church are illegitimate.

AsiaNews said three bishops were taken away yesterday: Liang Jiansen of Jiangmen, Liao Hongqing of Meizhou and Paul Su Yongda of Zhanjiang.

Bishop Joseph Junqi of Guangzhou has been missing for days.

It said four other bishops loyal to Pope Benedict XVI were due to take part in the ordination of Father Huang Bingzhang on July 14 in Shantou.

It said one bishop, Paul Pei Junmin, who has been designated as the principal celebrant at the ordination, is being protected by his priests in the cathedral of Shenyang in order not to participate in the ceremony.

AsiaNews said that uniformed and plainclothes police officers were outside the cathedral, and said the priests were holding non-stop prayers inside.

Long-running tensions between the Vatican and Beijing frayed earlier this month after the Holy See excommunicated an "illegitimate" Chinese bishop and China's state-run Church threatened to continue defying the pope.

China's 5.7 million Catholics are increasingly caught between showing allegiance to the officially sanctioned Patriotic Catholic Association or to the pope as part of an "underground" Church not recognised by the authorities.

The Vatican had hoped that China would guarantee religious freedom while opening up its economy in recent years. Beijing had initially agreed to postpone new bishop ordinations but its attitude hardened again in 2010.

Tensions rose after a bishop was ordained without official permission from the Roman Catholic Church in Chengde in northern China last November.

In May, the pope called on all bishops to "refuse to take the path of separation," in spite of "pressure" from the communist authorities.

But the Patriotic Catholic Association ignored these appeals and announced last month that it hoped to ordain 40 bishops "without delay".

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