.- Chinese officials arrested four priests, belonging to the underground Catholic Church in China, this past month.
According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a nonprofit group that monitors freedom of religion for Christians in China, eight civilian-clothed policemen apprehended three priests July 24 at the home of a Catholic believer in the Ximeng region of Inner Mongolia.
They were arrested because they are loyal to Pope Benedict XVI and refused to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the foundation stated.
The three priests, originally of Hebei, were hiding in Inner Mongolia in order to avoid the arrests, but they were finally hunted down by the Security Police.
The priests are: Frs. Liang Aijun, 35; Wang Zhong, 41, and; Gao Jinbao, 34.
During the initial phase of the arrest, the priests were locked up in an iron cage. They were not allowed to talk to anyone. Water brought to them was refused by the police. They have now all been transferred to an undisclosed location.
The fourth priest, Fr. Cui Tai, 50, of Zhuolu County, was in a minor motorcycle accident in early July. After the accident was resolved, the authorities transferred him to the public security and religious bureau. He has been detained in the Zhuolu County detention cell ever since. Fr. Cui has also refused to register with the Patriotic Association. He belongs to the diocese of Xuanhua, Hebei.
Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, underlined that there are still five bishops in jail and many others under house arrests and close surveillance. In addition, about 15 priests and some Catholic lay people are also in jail.
“While we need to 'love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us,' as Pope Benedict told us in his China letter, we also need to awaken the world to the ongoing persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in China,” said Kung.
“The freedom-loving and powerful countries of the world should take into greater consideration - consistently, and persistently, and not haphazardly - all human rights violations in China when forming and implementing their political and commercial decisions in relation to China,” he stated.
"In the meantime, we urge the Chinese government to take steps immediately to stop all persecution throughout China and release all Roman Catholic bishops and clergy together with those faithful of other faiths from prisons," he said in a statement.