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Chinese priest imprisoned

by Aaron James

A local source told Asia News that officials arrested Fr Liu Honggeng on May 7th, and he hasn't been seen since.

Fr Liu was the lead priest at the secret Our Lady Queen of China church in Baoding, in the central province of Hubei.

He was arrested to stop pilgrims coming to his congregation to celebrate Marian month, a time in the Catholic Church where people particularly reflect on the role of Mary in Christianity.

The Chinese government previously convicted Fr Liu without trial and imprisoned him for eight years before releasing him last August, because he refused to join the state-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).

News of the arrest has come days after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, arrived in China for a week-long visit.

The source, who didn't want to be named for security reasons, said: "There are more than 70 priests and the pastoral ministry is very much alive, despite the persecution. People are often arrested or detained because the area is a stronghold of the underground Church. But we did not expect Fr Liu to be arrested again.

"He is a good pastor and a good person. His parishioners have tried to find out his whereabouts after he disappeared but without success. We hope and pray that he will soon come back to us. He had been released only last August.

"Chinese Catholics, especially in Baoding, feel very close to this [Marian] period of the year. The diocese has about 500,000 believers, in the official and underground Churches, and everyone is particularly devoted to Our Lady."

Chinese authorities recently detained the Bishop of Zhengding in Hubei province, Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, before releasing him twelve days later.

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