Two ‘underground’ parish priests in China’s Gansu province have been removed after being accused of holding a summer camp for a youth group at their church.
F Wang Yiqin of Hui county and Fr Li Shidong of Leling in Shandong province were serving Maijiqu Ganquan Church in Tianshui Diocese, ucanews.com reported.
The Tianshui Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee sent a letter asking the local branch of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to send personnel to replace the priests, who were accused of holding the camp for the Bosco Youth Group at the church and sent back to their hometowns.
On July 21, the committee issued a letter stating that no association personnel were involved with the church, which had become a base for underground clergy.
It asked the association to appoint personnel “to strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law and according to the regulations on religious affairs.”
Fr Zhao Jianzhang of Tianshui’s open church is deputy director and secretary-general of the Gansu Catholic Patriotic Association and Catholic Administration Commission.
He told ucanews.com that he had been informed of the incident and the parish office had received a letter, but he was out of town and would handle the incident when he returned.
A source said: “There are people in the government who want to break the current situation. They do not allow the underground church to exist and must convert it to be open because only Tianshui in northwest China still has an underground community.”
Maijiqu Ganquan Church is one of only two underground churches in Tianshui Diocese. Built in 1921, the church had been approved by Yuanbeidao district government.