Beijing (AsiaNews) – The orphanage founded by Julius Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding, could be taken over by the government. The facility has existed for more than 20 years and is home to about a hundred disabled children who have been rescued by the bishop and a group of nuns. The seizure represents an act of revenge against the bishop for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
Mgr Jia took in his first disabled child 20 years ago. The child had been left in front of his home. After that, the prelate began taking in disabled boys and girls. He also set up an order of nuns, who now number around 30, to care for the children.
The orphanage is in Wu Qiu (Jinzhou, Hebei) and is well known in China and abroad. Even though it is illegal, the facility is appreciated by the population, which helps and supports the bishop in his charitable work. For this reason, the authorities in the past turned a blind eye and allowed the facility to grow. The bishop has been able to cover orphanage expenses thanks to Chinese and foreign donors.
Mgr Jia, 75, has spent more than 15 years in prison. Since he became an underground bishop in 1980, he has been arrested several times and has been held in prison for months, subjected to political sessions (brainwashing) to force him to join the CPCA.
According to information provided by the Kung Foundation, the decision to seize the orphanage is probably an act of revenge against the prelate’s “stubborn” refusal to join the organisation that controls the Church.
In recent months, the CPCA launched a new decisive campaign to undermine both the official and the underground Church by organising Episcopal ordinations without papal mandate and setting up an assembly to elect the president of two institutions that the Holy See views contrary to Catholic doctrine.
According to the Kung Foundation, “In December 2010, Mr. Yin of the United Front Department of Jinzhou, Mr. Guo of Political Secretary, Mr. An of the Bureau on Religious Affairs of Jinzhou, the Communist Party Secretary in Wuqiu Village, and Director Chen of the Public Security Bureau of Shijiazhuang took Bishop Jia away on three different occasions. They tried to force Bishop Jia to sign an agreement to release all his orphans to the government, and to disperse the thirty Catholic nuns who have been serving the orphanage.”
Party officials threatened Mgr Jia with another prolonged “political session” if he did not sign the agreement. In any event, they told him that the orphans would be taken away with or without his signature.
Mgr Jia refused to sign and turned instead to the Central Bureau on Religious Affairs in Beijing, protesting the above-mentioned threats from the local authorities. However, the Central Bureau washed its hands saying that such matters fall under the jurisdiction of the local bureau.
Many observers believe the government’s move is an attempt to destroy the bishop’s moral authority with the population and his community.
The diocese of Zhengding is located some 270 kilometres south of Beijing, and has about 110,000 members loyal to the underground Church.