Saturday, July 02, 2005

Vatican Reports Priest's Release

A priest from China's underground Catholic church has been released after nearly six years under house arrest.

Published reports from the Vatican say Vincent Kong Guocun was freed last month because of poor health. There is no official confirmation from Beijing.

The 34-year-old priest, who was from an unapproved diocese in Wenzhou along China's southeastern coast, had been under house arrest since October 1999.

China broke off formal relations with the Vatican in 1951, and Chinese Catholics are only allowed to worship in a state-sanctioned church. Many Chinese Catholics have risked arrest by worshipping in unofficial churches and private homes.

Beijing and Rome have been getting closer to resolving their differences since the election of Pope Benedict the XVI in April.

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