The Holy See has issued a statement protesting over the arrests of several Catholic priests, seminarians and laypeople in China. last month. The Vatican press office director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said on Saturday: "The Holy See has learned that in August some Catholic priests and faithful were arrested in China. "During the first week of August, Fr. Paul Huo Junlong, vicar general of the diocese of Baoding, province of Hebei, was arrested by the police, along with seven other priests and two seminarians. Frs. Paul An Jianzhao and John the Baptist Zhang Zhenquan were sentenced to a period of rehabilitation through forced labour. The others are still being held in Quyang, Baoding, with the exception of three who do not belong to the same diocese. According to information which arrived on September 6, 23 members of the clergy of the diocese of Baoding have been detained or denied their freedom. Among them were Bishop James Su Zhimin and Auxiliary Bishop Francis An Shuxin, who disappeared, respectively, in September of 1997 and March of 1996 and are being held without trial in a secret place. "The diocesan administrator of the archdiocese of Fuzhou was subsequently arrested along with two other priests and one seminarian. There are no indications that they have been freed. "The Holy See does not know the motives for such repressive measures. If this news is true, it would once again be a grave violation of freedom of religion which is a fundamental right of man. "The Holy See calls for this right to be respected, a right that is ratified by the universal Human Rights Declaration, and it trusts that the above-mentioned people will be freed as soon as possible, in accord with justice, freedom and their pastoral commitment in the service of their respective communities. "In addition, we received news that at the end of August, Bishop John Gao Kexian of Yantai, province of Shandong, died in prison at age 76. The prelate's body was handed over by the police to his family members. Bishop Gao had been in prison since the late 1990's and there has been no news about him for some time." Source: VIS
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