Chinese priest detained after student retreat


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Police have detained an 'underground' priest of Mindong diocese, eastern China, and fined his fellow priests a month after they organized youth camps for university students.

Father John Baptist Luo Wen, 39, pastor of the Holy Family Church, has been in 'administrative detention' at a government-run guesthouse in Fu'an city since 3 March. Fathers Guo Xijin, Miu Yong and Liu Maochun received notices of detention but security officers have not taken any action yet, local Catholics said.

Another three priests were fined 500 yuan (US$73) each. However, Church sources said: "They would rather be detained and will never pay the fine."

The seven Mindong priests organized four-day winter camps for about 300 Catholic university students in two batches in late January and early February. Church sources told UCA News yesterday that the priests are now "facing revenge" from public security officers.

In mainland China, public security officials can hold a person in custody for a maximum of 15 days as punishment for violating public order provisions or impose a fine, or both.

Father Luo, who is active in online evangelization, and who uses the Internet name, 'Father A Sip of Tea,' had anticipated the outcome. He told UCA News before the detention that he "would be happy to serve as a witness of God and a follower of martyr-saints."

On 3 February, public security officers arrived at Saiqi Church, where the youth camp took place and ordered the priests to close the event down.

"We decided not to and told the students about the situation. We asked those who were afraid to go home and said that we priests would accompany the remaining ones until the end," Father Luo said.

Fewer than 20 participants left while some gained support from their parents after phoning home for advice, he said. The priests were questioned by security officers on Feb. 4, but no one was detained until a month later.

Church sources believed the security officers felt they had lost face and punished the priests as revenge.

Mindong diocese has more than 70,000 Catholics. Most of them belong to the underground Church community led by 86-year-old Bishop Vincent Huang Shoucheng and nearly 60 priests.