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China: fears grow for arrested priest

Father Peter Zhang Guangjun

Father Peter Zhang Guangjun

The Catholic community in Xuanhua diocese in Hebei say they are concerned about the safety of a priest who was arrested last week. Father Peter Zhang Guangjun, 40, who is assistant pastor in Xuanhua parish, taking care of 'underground' Catholics. was taken from the home of a Catholic family by public security officers on 13 January and has not been seen since.

Someone knocked on the door of the house claiming to be from a local gas company, Church sources said. When the door opened, about ten men barged in,  forcing one person aside and dragging the priest away. There was no time for him to put on his coat and shoes. He was taken away in freezing temperatures.

It was hoped Father Zhang had been sent back to his hometown in Zhuolu County, but parishioners who went there were left disappointed after a local official refused to reveal any information about the priest.

Another source, who described Fr Zhang, as a 'well respected man of virtue',  said he suffers from heart disease.

Since his arrest parishioners have organized 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and some have begun novenas to ask God to protect their priest.

Church sources believe government officials are trying to make the underground clergy carry a 'priest card' (work permit) and to submit to the leadership of open Church authorities and the government. Nearly half of Xuanhua’s 40 priests now carry priest cards, including open and underground priests.

Source: UCAN