Following the release of a Vatican statement complaining about the arrests of three bishops in China - the authorities there have denied the claims, saying they are "totally groundless". A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry said: "The Chinese constitution guarantees that citizens have the right to religious freedom." In a strongly-worded statement on Wednesday the Vatican said the bishops of Xuanhua and Zhending, and the assistant bishop of Xiwanzi, had recently been detained. It said that while the Zhending and Xiwanzi prelates were released within days, Bishop Zhao, the bishop of Xuanhua, who is 84, had not been heard from since 27 May. "These measures are inconceivable in a country with rule of law, and infringe upon human rights, in particular that of religious freedom," he said. An official at China's Religious and Ethical Affairs Bureau explained the disappearance of the elderly bishop of Xuanhua by saying he had voluntarily attended a course on religious policy which lasted until mid-June. The Agence France Presse news agency was told: "Mr Zhao is now performing services in his own church."
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