Chinese priest missing after ‘brief chat’ with authorities

A Chinese priest has been missing from his home town in China’s eastern Zhejiang province since government officials took him away just after Christmas “for a brief chat”.

Father Lu Danhua was taken from a priest’s dormitory on 29 December by officials of the State Administration for Religious Affairs to travel to Wenzhou for “re-educating” on the new set of religious rules, to be implemented on 1 February, and “obtaining a permit to be a priest”, according to Catholic news agency UCAN.

The authorities said he was released the next day, but he has not been seen and is not answering his phone.

The priest was ordained by “underground” bishop Peter Shao Zumin, who was released last week after being detained for seven months. However, sources told UCAN the taking away of the priest was not related to the bishop.

World Watch Monitor has reported on other cases of Chinese Christian leaders who were imprisoned and tortured, or harassed. Between 2013 and 2015 over 1,200 crosses were pulled down from churches in Zhejiang, known as the “Jerusalem of the east” for its strong Christian presence.

According to some commentators, China’s Communist Party is threatened by the “uncontrolled growth of Christianity” in the country – estimated by some to reach 247 million by 2030, “making it the world’s largest congregation”.

Although the government officially allows the Catholic Church to operate in the country, a body affiliated with the Communist Party, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), wants independence from the Vatican. Bishop Shao has been under pressure to join this movement but has resisted.

World Council of Churches visits China

Meanwhile a delegation of the World Council of Churches is currently visiting China to celebrate the organisation’s 70th anniversary, AsiaNews reports. The nine-day visit includes meetings with government officials and Protestant church leaders, and visiting educational institutions.

The delegation will also visit official Protestant churches, which have an estimated 20 million members, a quarter of the number of Christians estimated to belong to non-registered churches.

China is 42nd on the newly released Open Doors 2018 World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.