Catholics in Suiyuan diocese have called on fellow believers around the world to pray for them tomorrow on the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China during what they say is their most difficult time in recent decades.
According to Church sources, the Catholic community in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has faced a series of suppressive acts by authorities aimed at forcing “underground” clergy to join the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association.
“It is very likely that the faithful have to quietly pass the Pentecost this Sunday, one of the four major Church feasts widely celebrated in China, as they did so at Easter,” a source said.
To avoid arrest, underground priests remain in hiding and cannot carry out normal pastoral work because they have refused to support the independent Church principle, the source said.
Father Joseph Gao Jiangping, an underground diocesan administrator, has been confined in isolation at a detention center in Hohhot, the regional capital for more than three months since he was taken into custody on February 15.
Church sources said the priest, in his 40s, is in poor physical condition because of torture and continuous interrogation.
Local officials may continue his detention, as they hesitate to make a formal accusation against him, “worrying that his influence among local Catholics would be enlarged, or they would incur international criticism if he is sentenced,” one source said.
“On the other hand if he is released, it would affect expansion of the the official Church community.”
Meanwhile, the government-sanctioned Church is gradually taking over large churches previously administered by underground priests.
“A newly built Gothic church in Machi township was taken over by a priest from Baotou diocese. Fr Thomas Han was forced to leave and disappear under government pressure,” another source said.
Source: UCA News, International Christian Concern