A 78 YEAR OLD Chinese priest has been sent back to the labour camp from which he was released two years ago, according to reports just received in Hong Kong.
Fr Stanislaus Shen was reportedly accused of hampering production and modernisation. Sources in Shanghai said his banishment was related to a spontaneous pilgrimage in mid-March, by 3,000 Catholics to a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary near Shanghai.
The sources said that Fr Shen, who has lived in Shanghai since his release in 1978, was not directly involved in the pilgrimage.
Fr Shen spent more than 20 years in a labour camp. His arrest, on May 5, is the first reported case of the imprisonment of a Catholic priest since the Chinese government adopted a less restrictive policy towards the Church two years ago.
The action was therefore likely to be the decision of local authorities rather than central Government and may have been aimed at intimidating Catholics not affiliated to the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, the Government-backed Church body, the sources said.
Meanwhile, observers of the Church scene in China have seen the election of the little-known Bishop long Huaide of Jinan as the new leader of the PACC as a possible sign that the Association is keen to forge a new relationship with the Vatican. The Vatican is known to be reconsidering its attitude to the schismatic Chinese Church and observers say that the choice of an unknown to lead Chinese Catholics may be an attempt by the PACC to find a leader unconnected with past controversies.
It is certainly true that the bitterness which exists between the "patriotic" Catholics and those who have remained loyal to Rome is the main obstacle to the Vatican's recognition of the PACC.
In another development, the PACC has set up a college of Chinese bishops and a national commission to administer Church affairs. It also decided to reopen a seminary to train priests and "specialists".