China’s communist authorities last week raided an underground Catholic church in Hebei province with many taken away. and detained two priests and at least a dozen seminarians and nuns whose whereabouts remain unknown
On the morning of November 2, two priests from the unofficial community of Baoding and more than a dozen seminarians and nuns from the same community were forcibly taken away by government officials, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
On the same day, Fr. Lu Genjun, former vicar general of Baoding, was also removed from the community. Until now, no one knows their whereabouts.
A priest from Baoding told Asia News that the abduction took place shortly after the renewal of the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement on bishop appointment. He asked all Catholics to pray for the kidnapped and for full religious freedom in China.
It is likely that their detention is used to force them to join the state-sanctioned Catholic open church.
The diocese of Baoding, is one of the largest and has at least 50,000 underground Catholics. Its bishop, Msgr. James Su Zhimin, has been in police custody for 13 years. The 88-year-old bishop has not been seen or heard from since 2003.
Last month, China and the Vatican signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, drawing criticism from rights groups who warned the deal would further hamper religious freedom in the communist country.
The deal, the details of which have never been published, permits the Chinese government to propose names for new bishops to the Vatican through its state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, with the pope having veto power on the decision, according to Christian Post.
In turn, the Vatican recognizes the legitimacy of bishops previously appointed by the Chinese government and excommunicated by the church.
China is ranked number 23 on Pesercution Watchdog, Open Door 2020 list of top 50 countries where it is most deadly to be a christian.