Five “underground” priests from Suiyuan diocese in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region were “taken away” by police yesterday, according to Church sources.
They were arrested in Erenhot, a city near the border with Mongolia.
The sources said the priests, who have no affiliation with the government-sanctioned “open” Church, were Father Joseph Gao, the diocesan administrator, Fr Joseph Ban, the seminary rector, and three parish priests surnamed Ding, Wang and Zhao.
They were apparently holding a meeting at a layperson’s home in the late afternoon to discuss the transfer of parish priests when about 30 policemen and government officials stormed the house and took them away.
The officials did not give any explanation for the arrests and other priests and lay leaders have called for prayers for their safe return, the sources said.
They described the latest incident as “very unusual,” as the underground community in Suiyuan has led a peaceful existence in recent years with about 30 priests usually living in laypeople’s homes and doing pastoral work secretly.
The underground community continues to refer to itself as Suiyuan diocese, which covers the vast central and southwestern part of Inner Mongolia. It was officially abolished by the open Church authority when it restructured diocesan territories to form five dioceses in the autonomous region in the early 1980s.