Chinese priest suspended after joining open community

Recently released Bishop Cui accuses priest of falsely promoting unity between underground and state churches reporter, Hong Kong 
March 8, 2019

Coadjutor Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua in August 2018 when he was taken to a government ‘study class.’ (Photo supplied)

A priest who left the underground community of a northern Chinese diocese has been suspended by a coadjutor bishop who was recently released from detention.

Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of Xuanhua in Hebei province issued a statement on March 3 to confirm the suspension of Father Zhang Li, who was accused of falsely promoting communion between the underground and open communities and causing confusion when he introduced the charismatic movement to the diocese.

The statement said Father Zhang “with an unauthorized manner massively promoted the so-called communion [among the underground and open communities], leading to confusion and a counterproductive result of division.”

A church source who identified himself as Paul told that the major issue was that after switching to the open community, Father Zhang solicited Catholics to follow him, which led to about 100 accepting the authority of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

“They posted messages on social media that they do not recognize the episcopacy of Bishop Cui,” Paul said, adding that they had pledged their support to the achievement of unity.

Paul said the government and the open community were giving their strong support to Father Zhang and the government had even asked Bishop Cui to remove the priest’s suspension.

Paul is concerned that Bishop Cui, who was released from detention on Jan. 23, will soon be detained again or “possibly not allowed to return for Chinese New Year next time.”

A source called John told that the government was using Father Zhang to push forward the agenda of unity, but “this is not the unity the pope and the Church hopes for.”

“They wish to suppress the underground church and to attempt to incorporate the underground church into the official church controlled by the government,” John said.

“We will follow the concrete instructions given by the pope and the diocese on how to proceed. We will achieve unity under the pope and the Church’s hierarchy, but not be unified to the official church’s institutions under the principles of independence, autonomy and self-administration.”

In his statement, Bishop Cui said Father Zhang had a wrong understanding of charism in promoting the charismatic movement and “exaggerated the account of charismatic healing.”

Paul believes the bishop took the risk of being detained again because he wanted to correct mistakes in person.

“There are many problems in the movement with false accounts of healing claimed to be real, and participants are taking it too emotionally,” he said.

Since 1993, Bishop Cui has been repeatedly subject to detention and house arrest or sent to labor camps by authorities for illegally preaching or holding illegal religious assemblies.

Since 2007, he has only been allowed to go home for a few days to visit his elderly sister for festivals such as the Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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