Fri, Jul 09, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Chinese priest, nun from underground church found dead

AP, BEIJING

A priest and nun who belonged to an unauthorized congregation in northern China were found slain in the hospice where they worked, a local priest said yesterday. Police have made no arrests.

The pair were found dead on Tuesday at the hospice in Inner Mongolia’s Wuhai City, said Zhang Pengyao, a priest with the country’s official Church. The hospice was still cordoned off by police, he said.

A report by AsiaNews, a missionary news agency close to the Vatican, said priest Zhang Shulai (張書來) and nun Wei Yanhui (魏艷慧) were found stabbed to death in the hospice, which was part of the church residence.

Hospice workers found their bodies in a pool of blood after the pair failed to show up for morning mass.

Wei had a stab wound to the chest. Zhang had seven knife wounds and his body showed signs of a struggle, the report said. It was not clear where they were found in the hospice and whether the bodies were together in one room.

An officer in the Wuhai police department, who refused to give his name, said by telephone that the authorities had not made any arrests.

He refused to give additional information and hung up.

Zhang and Wei worked in the region’s unofficial diocese.

The Chinese Communist Party allows worship only in state-approved churches, but many Catholics belong to unregistered congregations. Such “house churches” are subjected to varying degrees of harassment by the authorities.

Christians worshipping in China’s independent churches are believed to number more than 60 million, compared with about 20 million people who worship in the state church, numbers provided by scholars and church activists showed.

Zhang Pengyao said the victims’ status with the unofficial church hindered him from helping.

“Since they’re underground, our priests have concerns participating in their activities. And they’re also reluctant to contact us and do things on their own,” he said.

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