Zhengding (AsiaNews) – After almost four months of detention, Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding (Hebei) was released on 14 December, but he should be detained again very soon. According to local sources, Bishop Jia's family made numerous requests for his release because an uncle is seriously ill and wants to see him before dying.
With Christmas approaching, the source added, the bishop reportedly also asked the local government many times to release him so that he can celebrate the major holiday in his cathedral in Wuqiu, near the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang.
A local Catholic also cited a government official saying that Bishop Jia will again be detained after a few days because he needs to undergo a "learning session," but the official did not specify if that would be before or after Christmas.
The last time the bishop was detained was on 23 August when he reportedly removed a sign displaying the words Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which government officials had placed it outside his cathedral. The CPCA is a government organisation not recognised by the Holy See which interferes in the life of the Church trying to impose its own bishops without Vatican approval. According to sources, priests of the diocese say they had no details about the detention.
Mgr Jia was also preparing a pastoral letter for his faithful commenting the Pope’s Letter to Chinese Catholics.
Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 73, has spent more than 15 years in prison. Since 1980 when he was appointed underground bishop he has been arrested and detained several times. In custody he has been subjected to political indoctrination (brain washing) in order to make him submit to the CPCA and join the Chinese Bishops’ Council, a Bishops’ Conference not recognised by the Holy See.
The diocese of Zhengding is located some 270 km south of Beijing. It has about 110,000 members in the underground Church. It is well known for its charitable works. Bishop Jia himself founded an orphanage for abandoned disabled children that is run by nuns and that is now under tight government surveillance.