Authorities in China have kidnapped a Catholic priest, forced another to relocate, and destroyed a Catholic church all ahead of Easter celebrations as the communist government continues its crackdown on underground churches.
Christians this week in the Catholic Diocese of Xuanhua in China’s northern Hebei province held a sit-in to demand the return of a priest named Paul Zhang Guangjun.
According to UCAnews.com, an entity that covers Catholic news in Asia, Zhang was reported to have been abducted from his car by alleged government officials shortly after Palm Sunday mass ended on April 14.
Zhang is an underground Catholic priest who has refused to join China’s state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the governing body of the Chinese Catholic Church.
“When some plainclothes men came closer to the car and asked Father Zhang to open the window, he felt bad things were going to happen and he called me immediately,” said a local source identified as “Paul” who spoke with the outlet.
Paul explained that Zhang’s captors broke his car window and pulled him from the car.
The day after Zhang was taken, local parishioners prayed in front of the regional government office and pleaded for Zhang to be released. UCAnews reports that five people were allowed in to meet with the imprisoned pastor.
Zhang was said by one local source to have comforted his visitors by telling them that his imprisonment is a “testimony for Christ.”
Also on Palm Sunday, a priest from the city of Lanzhou in China’s Gansu province, Hong Wanxi, was forced to relocate to his hometown, according to AsiaNews, a Roman Catholic press agency.
Wanxi was alleged to have been taken and driven away by at least 10 policemen, officials from the United Front and the Religious Affairs Beaureu.
Like Zhang, Wanxi also has refused to join the Patriotic Association.
Activists have also reported that a Catholic Church in the town of Xiantao in the Hubei province in Central China was destroyed last Friday.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith