Chinese government officials today kept watch on key Church personnel at the cathedral of Cangzhou (Xianxian) where Bishop Joseph Li Liangui has not been seen for two weeks. News of the ongoing surveillance emerged as the Eighth National Congress of Catholic Representatives entered its second day in Beijing.
A mainland Catholic website has reported there are 314 representatives attending the congress, including 45 bishops, 158 priests, 24 nuns and 87 laypeople. The State Administration for Religious Affairs reported yesterday that 341 Catholics, including 64 bishops, are qualified as the congress representatives.
Church sources confirmed to ucanews.com that Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi of Shanghai joined the congress with 44 other bishops. However, Bishop Li has not been seen, said one of the participants.
Before the meeting, some people speculated that Bishop Xing, who is known for his strict adherence to Church principles, would not attend.
The meeting reiterates the “principles of independent, autonomous and self-management of the Church and the direction of managing the Church in democratic way.”
The state-run China Central Television also reported on the opening. But Bishop Li could not be seen in the 27-second video.
Bishop Li has been missing for more than two weeks since his last appearance at the illicit episcopal ordination in Chengde on Nov. 20. Some diocesan priests believed he was detained or unwilling to face priests and faithful.
However, on 6 December, dozens of religious officials and police officers went to Xianxian cathedral, giving an “ultimatum” to pressure the priests to hand over the bishop. On the same day, representatives from across the mainland arrived in Beijing to register for the Dec. 7-9 plenary meeting.
Vicar General Father Daniel Yang Quan’en, Chancellor Father Joseph Yu Rusong and two other priests who work at the bishop’s house were taken away and questioned for information on the whereabouts of Bishop Li. They were warned that if the bishop could not be found his family and the diocese would face trouble.
On the next day [Dec. 7], the officials even entered the bishop’s house to question everybody including the doorkeepers and kitchen staff.
Police cars have been patrolling the vicinity. Movements of all personnel in cathedral compound have been restricted. Even nuns have to show identity cards when going out, sources said.
“Such move has created an unharmonious atmosphere and exerted ill effects to the neighborhood,” a source said.
As of today, “some but less” officials were stationed there to keep watch on the priests.
Source: UCAN News