04/16/2004, 00.00
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Bishop Fan's ghost in Bishop Jia's arrest

The government feared an outpour of remembrance celebrations for Bishop Fan Xueyan, who died while undergoing harsh torture in 1992.   

Rome (AsiaNews) – Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo's Apr. 5-14 detainment was likely linked to the date of another underground bishop, Msgr. Joseph Fan Xueyan, who died on Apr. 13 1992. Chinese authorities probably arrested bishop of Zhengding to prevent any mass demonstrations in remembrance of the deceased prelate, Vatican sources told AsiaNews.

Catholic sources in the Chinese province of Hebei, contacted by Ucanews, confirmed the theory as well. Different than what has occurred on other occasions, during his time in jail no one visited the bishop to try and convince him to join the Patriotic Association. The only person to visit the Jia was a police official who questioned him as to whether the underground church had organized any remembrance ceremonies for the deceased Bishop Joseph Fan Xueyan from Baoding. Assured that no rally or demonstration was going to occur, police released Bishop Jia on the following day.      

Bishop Fan was one of the liveliest personalities of the Catholic underground Church and one of the last bishops to be anointed by Pope Pius XII prior to the break in Holy See-China diplomatic relations. Since 1957 he had resisted the advice and threats of the Chinese government, which had pushed for him to join the Patriotic Association and form a national Church separate from Rome.    

Hence, over various periods of time Bishop Fan spent around 26 years in prison. At the beginning of 1990 Bishop Fan disappeared after having being sequestered by police. On the night of Holy Thursday, Apr. 13 1992, his body was taken by police and left at the door of his family home.  His corpse was closed in a plastic bag, showing clear signs of torture.

Many underground Christians hope the Vatican will launch a cause for his canonization.

On account of his tragic death Apr. 13 has become taboo for Chinese police in Hebei. Christians from the region say that at least 10 years have passed since they have been able to organize some celebration to pay homage to Bishop Fan, as "government controls are too tight".    

The same sources confirm that Bishop Jia Zhiguo spent his days in jail in a room alone at a small hotel maintained by the army in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei. Police allowed him to bring a breviary and mass kit. The bishop was able to celebrate the Holy Week rites in his room, but alone and without other faithful and priests.
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