A high-ranking Chinese official in the Vatican has called on Beijing to release nine arrested Catholic bishops and priests, saying their continued detention damages China's international image.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, made his remarks in an interview published Tuesday by the Rome-based AsiaNews agency.
Hon urged the public to pray for the detained bishops and priests, and also to appeal for their release. He said if the nine priests have done something wrong, they should be tried in court, not sent to prison or isolation.
The Catholic News Service says eight of the arrested clergy are members of the so-called “underground” or clandestine Catholic community that is not sanctioned by the Chinese government.
Archbishop Han said Rome also is making efforts through personal channels and diplomats from third countries to obtain the priests' freedom.
The Vatican has had tense relations with communist China, which requires that Catholic priests register with the government. China does not allow the pope to appoint its archbishops and cardinals, which is contrary to the Church's tenets.