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China, Vatican agree on new bishop, priest arrested

July 29, 2005

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Vatican is reported to have given
its blessing to atheist China’s choice of a new bishop, the
second such appointment in as many months in a sign of a thaw
in decades-old icy relations.

But the Connecticut-based Cardinal Kung Foundation said
Chinese authorities had beaten up parishioners in the
southeastern province of Fujian who had been trying to prevent
the arrest of an underground Roman Catholic priest, undermining
reconciliation efforts.

China has come under fire from overseas human rights
watchdogs for violating human rights and repressing religion,
but the government denies the charges and insists its citizens
enjoy religious freedom.

China’s state-backed Church ordained Anthony Dang Mingyan
as an auxiliary bishop of Xian, capital of the northwestern
province of Shaanxi, on July 26, according to AsiaNews, a
Catholic news agency specialising in China.

The appointment had “the approval of both the Vatican and
the Beijing government,” the agency said.

Dang, 38, might eventually replace Archbishop Li Duan, 78,
who has cancer, it said.

The agency described Li, widely thought to be the cardinal
named secretly by the late Pope John Paul, as a “staunch
defender of Church autonomy who has been viewed with suspicion”
by Beijing.

Pontiffs sometimes name cardinals “in pectore” (in the
breast) and keep their names secret because revealing the
identity may put them in physical danger.

There was no immediate comment on the AsiaNews report from
either the Vatican or the China Patriotic Catholic Association,
which administers the legally approved church.

SECOND CASE

Last month, the agency said the Vatican had backed the
state appointment of Joseph Xing Wenzhi as an auxiliary bishop
of Shanghai, raising the possibility of improved ties. Chinese
religious officials later denied the report.

China has not had diplomatic ties with the Vatican since
1951, two years after the Communist takeover, and believers
must attend state churches led by bishops pledging loyalty to
Beijing. But a parallel church loyal to the Pope practises in
secret.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement that
security personnel had arrested Lin Daixian, an underground
Catholic priest, along with a seminarian and nine parishioners
when about 50 people were attending Mass on July 25 at a
private home in Pingtan county in the southeastern province of
Fujian.

Police beat up the parishioners as they tried to prevent
Lin’s arrest, the group said, adding that parishioners had
suffered severe injuries, including broken bones and teeth and
concussion.

“The persecution continues and gets worse and bolder at a
time when China is making significant economic progress,”
Joseph Kung, president of the foundation, said in the
statement.

He urged the International Olympic Committee to consider
cancelling the 2008 Beijing Summer Games to prevent its name
being “tarnished further by their association and coexistence
with the evil spirit of religious persecution in China.”

Contacted by telephone, an official at the Pingtan police
station said: “I can’t talk about it without approval from my
superiors. We have to abide by strict disciplinary rules unlike
you. You have press freedom in the West.”

There had been hopes that the death of Pope John Paul in
April could open a window for renewed diplomatic relations
between China and the Vatican.

But that would mean the Holy See having to cut ties with
self-governed democratic Taiwan, officially the Republic of
China, which Beijing claims as its own.

The Vatican estimates it has about 8 million followers in
China, compared with about 5 million who follow the
state-backed association. Taiwan has about 300,000 Catholics.

The Communist government has refused to allow the Vatican
to appoint bishops officially, saying this would amount to
interference in its internal affairs. (Additional reporting by
Guo Shipeng)




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