Chinese Authorities Release Bishop Jia Zhiguo
Prelate Stresses Refusal to Join Patriotic Association
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BEIJING, JULY 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Chinese Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, who was arrested and imprisoned in March 2009, was released by the authorities Wednesday.
The prelate was arrested on the first day of a three-day meeting in the Vatican of a commission established by Benedict XVI in 2007 to study the most important issues of the life of the Church in China. The abduction was seen as an affront to the efforts of that commission.
Bishop Jia, 75, is a member of the "underground" Church but has worked for reconciliation of the Church in China, where the government permits religious practice only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association.
This explains the difference between the "national" or "official" Church, and the faithful who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church.
Bishop Jia has been repeatedly refusing to become part of the Patriotic Association.
Instead, he has been attempting to collaborate with Bishop Jang Taoran of Shijiazhuang, a member of the national Church recently reconciled with Rome, on a joint pastoral plan for the Hebei region where they are both stationed. Yet the authorities attempted to end this collaboration, and this latest arrest was Bishop Jia's 13th since 2004.
Soon after his release, Bishop Jia celebrated a Mass at the cathedral where he serves.
He made a point of declaring that he did not join the Patriotic Association during his imprisonment, nor did he accept the authority of the government-approved bishops' conference, AsiaNews reported.
An anonymous source told the news agency that the goal of this latest arrest was to undermine the reconciliation effort between the official and underground Church in Hebei, the Chinese region with the largest Catholic population.
Two other bishops of Hebei are still missing. Bishop James Su Zhimin, 76, the ordinary of Baoding, disappeared in 1996. Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, 87, of Yixian disappeared in 2001.