Chinese bishop back in detention, vicar general in custody
Authorities ramp up religious suppression in Hebei amid long-running dispute.
Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua in August 2018 when he was taken to a government 'study class.' (Photo supplied)
A Chinese bishop is back in detention and a vicar general in custody amid a long-running dispute between a group of Beijing-affiliated priests and a diocese of the underground church in the northern province of Hebei.
Sources in the underground Catholic community told ucanews.com that coadjutor Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua was taken into custody by government officials at 8 a.m. on March 29 after he received a text message on his mobile phone informing him of his pending arrest. His whereabouts are unknown.
Vicar general Father Zhang Jianlin was taken into custody by officials from the provincial religious department on March 28, the source said, adding he had faced severe travel restrictions since his identity papers were confiscated.
He was not even allowed to buy a bus ticket to travel to a neighboring city, the source said.
Bishop Cui has been regularly detained by the provincial government. He was released in January and promptly issued a letter urging his congregation to accept the leadership of the vicar general and the diocesan board.
“The government’s aim is to paralyze the diocese. If the diocese fails to manage the community, then the government will use this as an opportunity to take it over,” a priest from the underground community, who declined to be named, told ucanews.com.
He said control of the diocese would then be handed to the official church.
Another source and member of the underground congregation said complaints had been made to the Vatican but Rome had fallen silent on the issue and the plight endured by underground communities across China.
He said the last time the Vatican spoke out against the suppression of the underground communities only came after the German ambassador to China expressed public concern for Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou who was detained in 2017.
“This is why the Vatican is silently complicit in the disappearance of church leaders from underground communities,” he said.
Critics say the Vatican has adopted a go-soft policy in China, with negotiations aimed at restoring ties between Beijing and the Holy See taking precedent over the plight of parishioners of the underground church, which claims Chinese-appointed priests are simply a prop for the atheist central government.