On Monday in Beijing, the state-sanctioned Catholic Church (officially, "The Catholic Patriotic Association") held a mass at Southern Cathedral in honor of Pope John Paul II. [official source: Xinhua]
Meanwhile the Communist Party has continued its persecution against Catholics loyal to Rome. According to AsiaNews.it:
On April 2, the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Joaquin Navarro Valls, had announced the arrest of several Catholics in China. The Bishop of Wenzhou, 86 year old Msgr James Lin Xili, was arrested last March 20 on Palm Sunday. He was taken away by security forces, but the reason for his arrest is unknown. A priest, Fr. Thomas Zhao Kexiun, of the Diocese of Xuanhua in Hebei, was arrested last March 30 while returning home from a funeral. The reason for the arrest in his case as well is unknown, as is his place of detention.
The Vatican points out that the Bishop of Xuanhua Diocese, Msgr. Phillip Peter Zhao Zhendong, was also arrested January 3rd of this year and is being held in the city of Jiangjiakou. Then, on March 22 in the Diocese of Wenzhou, police arrested Gao Xinyou, a collaborator in the pastoral for the laity in the Longgang area.
The news of Fr. Zhao Kexiun's arrest had already been reported by AsiaNews; Bishop Lin Xili is among those named on the list published by AsiaNews of 18 bishops and 19 priests in prison or in isolation in China. He is one of the bishops of the underground Church who are periodically arrested and subjected to brainwashing sessions to force them to register with the the Patriotic Association, the entity through which the Chinese Communist Party controls Catholics: among its aims is to create a Church independent from the pope.
Some estimate that there are up to 10 million underground Catholics in China who worship in secret. Web sites such as The Pope Blog (and all those hosted on Blogger) are not viewable across the Great Firewall, which is why Jimbo was the only one who posted on our blog between September and December of last year (Boney was in Shanghai).
It is sobering to remember that freedom of worship is not known in all corners of the world, and that the bloodshed of martyrs is not a thing of the past. The Chinese Catholics who have held masses for Pope John Paul II in their homes in the past week have done so at the risk of their livelihood and their lives. Learn more about the underground Church in China here and here, or see a list of bishops and priests currently being persecuted here.