Tackle Beijing on Religious Persecution, Group Urges Gov'ts

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - A group that campaigns for religious freedom Monday urged democratic governments to protest against abuses in China, where authorities have detained 12 Roman Catholic clergymen.

The priests and seminarians were arrested during a raid on a retreat they were attending in the northern Hebei province last week, said the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation also charged that officials bulldozed an unauthorized church in a nearby village several weeks earlier. Hebei is a stronghold of the growing Christian movement in China.

Beijing cut ties with the Vatican in the 1950s and established an official "Patriotic" denomination, which calls itself Catholic, but is shunned by Catholics obedient to the Pope.

Mainstream Catholicism was banned and driven underground and many priests have been jailed, according to the Vatican and human rights campaigners. Millions of Catholics loyal to the Vatican continue to meet in secret, however.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation said the detained clergymen were not part of the state-approved "Patriotic" church.

"All leaders of free countries should speak out against these atrocious arrests of these innocent religious believers," said the Connecticut-based group's president, Joseph Kung, in a statement.

Kung said that Pope John Paul II had throughout his 25 years as head of the world's Catholics "repeatedly expressed his deep respect and love for the Chinese people."

"It does not appear that the Chinese government respects the Pope with these consistent and harsh treatments of the Roman Catholic Church in China," he added.

During his recent announcement naming new cardinals, the Pope said one was appointed "in pectore" - his identity was not made public. It was widely speculated that the clergyman concerned is Chinese, and could not be named for his own safety.

Joseph Kung is the nephew of one of the Chinese Catholic Church's most famous leaders last century, Kung Pin-Mei.

Bishop Kung was named a cardinal in 1979, while serving a life sentence.

After 30 years behind bars and another ten years under house arrest, Cardinal Kung was allowed to travel to the U.S. in 1987 for medical treatment. He died in 2000 at age 98.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow