Pope Rejoices Over Release of Chinese Bishop
Prelate Had Been Imprisoned 15 Months
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VATICAN CITY, JULY 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, sent a message to Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, the underground bishop of the Diocese of Zhengding, to express Benedict XVI's joy over his release.
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.
The bishop was released July 7, after 15 months of detention. In fact, it was the 13th time that he was arrested since 2004. In these detentions, he was segregated and subjected to political indoctrination so that he would become part of the Catholic Patriotic Association, organization of the Communist Party that wishes to erect a national church with no relation to the Holy See.
In his letter to the prelate, Cardinal Dias said that he "received with great pleasure the news that Your Excellency has returned to his See. The news fills me with joy. The Holy Father sends you and your faithful a special apostolic blessing."
According to sources of AsiaNews agency, the last detention of the bishop was to "put an end to the Vatican's intentions to reconcile the 'official' Church [recognized by the Communist Party] and the underground Church of Hebei, the region with the largest number of Catholics."
In fact, Bishop Jia has already reconciled himself with Bishop Jang Taoran of Shijiazhuang -- the "official" diocese. The two bishops met on several occasions and began to promote a common pastoral plan, but when the Patriotic Association discovered this, it prohibited them from meeting and put them under police control day and night.
According to some local faithful, the police told Bishop Jia Zhiguo that the unity between the two bishops "is bad, as it is desired by a foreign power, the Vatican. If there is to be unity, it must take place under the governance of the Patriotic Association."
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.