- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 2, 2005

From combined dispatches

The Vatican said yesterday that Chinese authorities have carried out a new series of arrests of officials from China’s illegal Roman Catholic Church.

The most recent arrest occurred Wednesday, when a priest was picked up in Hebei, the same diocese whose bishop was arrested Jan. 3.

In a prepared statement, the Vatican said security forces also detained the 86-year-old bishop of Wenzhou, Monsignor James Lin Xili, on March 20 and, two days later, a lay official of the diocese.

China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in churches approved by the state-controlled church group. Government churches do not recognize the pope’s authority, although they acknowledge the pope as a spiritual leader.

Many Chinese Catholics remain fiercely loyal to Rome and risk arrest by worshipping in unofficial churches and private homes.

The state church claims 4 million believers, but the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based religious monitoring group, has said the unofficial church has 12 million followers.

The pope’s deteriorating health was front-page news across much of Asia, but not in China, where the state-run newspapers ignored it before the pope’s death last night.

Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the officially recognized church, the Catholic Patriotic Association, said the pope’s name was evoked routinely in official religious services. He said several dozen Chinese students had joined about 40 religious leaders in praying for the pope yesterday.

The Holy See recognizes Beijing’s diplomatic rival, Taipei on Taiwan.

Beijing has said in the past that it is ready to improve ties, but only on condition that the Vatican cuts ties with Taiwan. The Vatican, which estimates it has about 8 million followers in China, has repeatedly accused Beijing of repressing religion and cracking down on Roman Catholics.

Last September, it accused China of detaining eight priests and two seminary students, the latest in a long series of Catholics seized by China in recent years.

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