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Standoff between Catholic Church and Chinese Government Escalates

ICC Note: The Chinese government keeps tight control of the Catholic Patriotic Association, effectively making all of the major decisions for the Church in China and even replacing priests at will with government committees. 

12/23/2012 China (UCA News) - The provincial government in Hubei has replaced two priests from Wuhan diocese with a government-selected management committee amid an escalating standoff between authorities and the Church in the province.

During a confrontational meeting on December 13, 15 priests and several nuns were escorted to the office of the provincial Religious Affairs Bureau where officials announced a reshuffle of leading clergy positions, said sources who declined to be identified.

Father Joseph Shen Guo’an, who was temporarily in charge of Wuhan diocese and who has defied authorities in recent weeks, and another priest were dismissed from the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association. The Board of Diocesan Consultors was also disbanded, sources said.

The two priests were replaced by a five-member management committee led by Father Francis Cui Qingqi, who is said to be close to the government.

“No priests and nuns except Fr Cui were allowed to speak at the meeting,” said a church source using the pseudonym David.

Last Thursday’s reshuffle by the authorities effectively overrules church leaders in Wuhan who want to decide on the allocation of priests to parishes themselves.

On November 29, 19 out of 23 priests in Wuhan held a meeting and drew up their own list of assignments and transfers between parishes.

Some of the attending priests later received warnings from government officials stating the meeting itself was illegal, according to church sources.

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