BEIJING ( - Two Catholics priests have been detained by Chinese Communist authorities in a northern province, according to a US-based Catholic group on Thursday.

      Father Shi Wende was arrested on March 14 and Father Lu Genyou was detained on April 5, both while they were preparing to celebrate Mass in private homes, the Cardinal Kung Foundation of Stamford, Connecticut announced. The priests were members of the underground Catholic Church which remains loyal to the papacy and the doctrines of the Church. China's Communist government only allows the practice of the faith according to the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association which eschews contact with the Church Universal and Catholic doctrines. Members of underground churches have been sentenced to long terms in prison or labor camps, often without due process or trial.

      Local officials in Hebei province denied any knowledge of the arrests, but the foundation said the two cases were "signs of irrefutable continuous religious persecution" in China. The group said the arrests called into question China's commitment to a dialogue with the United States on religious freedom, and its resolve to implement the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

April 17-19, 1998 volume 9, no. 75         DAILY CATHOLIC