Vatican condemns China arrests

Thursday, June 24, 2004 Posted: 0708 GMT (1508 HKT)

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican has condemned the recent arrests of Catholic bishops in China, calling them a violation of religious freedom.

"The Holy See feels deep pain for these actions, for which no explanation has been given" a statement by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Wednesday.

The Vatican and China have no diplomatic relations, and Chinese authorities have long sought to suppress underground Catholic churches loyal to the pope.

Navarro-Valls listed three recent cases.

He said that since May 27 there has been no news on the bishop of Xuanhua, who was taken into police custody. Another bishop in Xiwanzi was held from June 2-12 while the bishop of Zhengding was held for five days by authorities, the Vatican spokesman said.

He called the actions "inconceivable in a state of law" and said they violate "the rights of the person, in particularly religious freedom, that are sanctioned in numerous international documents, also underwritten by the People's Republic of China."

Beijing only permits Catholics to worship in state-approved churches that do not report to the pope.