AppleDaily reports — China has placed dissenting Catholic priests in Jiangxi province under house arrest, in breach of an agreement signed with the Vatican to protect clergy from coercion, according to a report by Catholic news media.
The China-Vatican agreement was implemented “successfully” and the two sides “will continue to maintain close communication and consultation and improve bilateral relations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.
Critics of the Chinese regime have said that its treatment of Catholic priests should not be condoned by the Vatican, adding that cases like those in Jiangxi have become more frequent over the past two years.
In a set of guidelines issued last June, the Vatican said that the civil registration of clergy in China should “take place in a manner that guarantees respect for the conscience and the profound Catholic convictions of the persons involved.”
The Jiangxi clergy faced pressure from officials from the Public Security Bureau, the religious affairs ministry and the United Front Work Department, and they were told they cannot preach unless they sign an agreement to join state-sponsored churches, the report said.
Some underground churches only hold Mass once every six months to avoid detection, and churchgoers were wary of authorities arresting priests, according to the report.
Separately, the Hong Kong government has blocked retired cardinal Joseph Zen from sending mooncakes to prisoners, according to Catholic news agency AsiaNews.
The government explained its decision was on the grounds that the gifting activity had “political elements.” Zen has been sending the mooncakes to inmates since 2010.