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53 PRIESTS ARRESTED BY CHINESE LEADERS; VATICAN ROW 2.

Byline: SEAN O'HARA

CHINESE president Jiang Zemin, below, has ordered the detention of 53 Catholic bishops and priests, the Vatican said yesterday.

And secret police are closely watching many more as part of a strategy to weaken the underground Roman Catholic Church in the country.

The Vatican released the names of 33 clergy it says are either being detained or forbidden to worship.

Around 20 other priests whose names are not known were also being detained.

A Vatican spokesman said: "The Chinese leadership has never given up its idea that religious freedom can only be a controlled semi-freedom."

China has a state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association that does not recognise papal authority.

But millions of Chinese Catholics faithful to the pope worship in secret, risking arrest.

In October the Pope appealed to Beijing to normalise relations. China has said it was studying the request but demanded the Holy See end relations with Taiwan and pledge not to interfere in China's affairs.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2002
Words:161
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