December 22, 2012: The provincial government in Hubei, China, has replaced two priests
from Wuhan diocese with a government-selected management committee amid an escalating
standoff between authorities and the Church in the province.
During a confrontational
meeting on December 13, 15 priests and several nuns were escorted to the office of
the provincial Religious Affairs Bureau where officials announced a reshuffle of leading
clergy positions, said sources who declined to be identified.
Shen Guo’an, who was temporarily in charge of Wuhan diocese and who has defied authorities
in recent weeks, and another priest were dismissed from the government-sanctioned
Catholic Patriotic Association. The Board of Diocesan Consultors was also disbanded,
The two priests were replaced by a five-member management committee
led by Father Francis Cui Qingqi, who is said to be close to the government. “No priests
and nuns except Fr Cui were allowed to speak at the meeting,” said a church source
using the pseudonym David. Last Thursday’s reshuffle by the authorities effectively
overrules church leaders in Wuhan who want to decide on the allocation of priests
to parishes themselves.
On November 29, 19 out of 23 priests in Wuhan held
a meeting and drew up their own list of assignments and transfers between parishes.
Some of the attending priests later received warnings from government officials stating
the meeting itself was illegal, according to church sources. The following day, Fr
Shen defied the warning by announcing the transfers during Mass, to applause from
Authorities again tried to block the decision, sources said,
by summoning priests to meetings individually in which they were told not to leave
their parishes and head to their new appointments. Father Francis Wu Zhengfu, who
proceeded to Boquan church on December 9, was locked in a room by officials to prevent
him from meeting his new parishioners, church sources said, who added that he was
insulted and threatened.
“Father Wu had no choice but to return to [his previous
posting at] the cathedral while his predecessor, Father Joseph Huang Xuefeng, was
not allowed to leave his parish,” said David.
Events over the past few weeks
represent the latest example of interference by authorities in Wuhan. After the former
bishop died in 2007, authorities tried and failed to install their preferred candidate
The Church’s candidate at the time, Fr Shen, was informed without
reason that his ordination was canceled and has since fallen out of favor with authorities.