The Chinese government and the Catholic church have long been at odds over the ordination of new bishops. The state-administered Catholic church in China often ignores Vatican authority and ordains new bishops without permission. Priests who speak out against the government, such as Father Zhao Hongchun, are then arrested or forced to attend training classes until their views more closely reflect the governments official stance.
07/06/2012 China (The Herald Sun) – A priest in China has gone missing, apparently placed in custody due to his opposition to the ordination of a Chinese bishop.
Father Zhao Hongchun from Harbin city was taken away yesterday ahead of the planned ordination of a colleague, Father Yue Fusheng, that is scheduled to take place tomorrow without the blessing of the Vatican.
“Father Zhao’s (disappearance) could be due to the worries of ‘relevant departments’ in government that he may take actions during the July 6 illegitimate ordination,” the Harbin diocese said in a statement posted on its website.
Father Zhao was expected to remain in custody until after the consecration, it said.
The statement said Father Zhao’s disappearance was not the first time that church clergy had disappeared into custody due to the long-running feud between China’s state-administered Catholic Church and the Vatican.
China and the Vatican have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1951, when the Holy See angered Mao Zedong’s communist government by recognising the Nationalist Chinese regime in Taiwan as the legitimate government of China.
Ties thawed in recent years as China’s Catholic population grew, although Beijing’s insistence on overriding Vatican authority in approving bishops has kept the rift alive.
The official Chinese Catholic Church has around 5.7 million followers according to official statistics, and must follow the edicts of the state.