Rome (AsiaNews) Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, underground Bishop of Zhengding (Hebei, northern China), was arrested on January 5, this according to the Kung Foundation.
In a press release, the US-based foundation said that three officials of the Religious Affairs Bureau took the 69-year-old bishop into custody at 5:30 pm on January 5 from a church in Wu Qiu village. According to its sources, the bishop is currently detained in Shijiazhuang (Hebei).
In 2004 he was arrested and then released at least six times, the first time on April 5.
Through the director of its press office Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican protested against the initial detention, calling Bishop Jia's arrest "inadmissible in a state that claims to guarantee freedom of religion, to respect and preserve human rights and to be governed by the rule of law".
Eventually, Bishop Jia was taken into custody again twice in June, twice in September ad once in December.
Julius Jia Zhiguo has been a bishop since 1980 and has already spent 20 years in prison. He heads one Hebei's most dynamic dioceses with the highest concentration of Catholicsabout a million and a half.
During much of this time, he has been under house arrest. As a member of an illegal church he cannot exercise his ministry and to prevent him from carrying out his duties and stop gatherings of underground Christians the authorities have arrested ahead of important religious celebrations (Christmas, Epiphany, Eastern, Pentecost the Assumption) and subjected him to indoctrination. Often, when the Communist Party has held important meetings or when foreign dignitaries were visiting the country, he was taken to secret locations.
To stop his evangelising activity, in 1999 the police closed down an orphanage for abandoned and disabled children he was running. International pressure finally forced the authorities to relent and grant the bishop the necessary authorisation to run the institution. Today, he supports about 100 children out of is own pocket in his home.
In China the government allows Catholic worship only if it is within the official Catholic Church.
Bishops, priest and laity belonging to the underground Church are victims of constant violence and imprisonment.
Since 2000, the government's grip on religion, including the official Church has grown tighter. Never the less, more than 80 per cent of government appointed-bishops have secretly sought reconciliation with and recognition of the Holy See dismissing as useless the Communist Party's attempt to set up a national Church.
Still, seminarians, priests and bishops of the official Church are required to submit to months-long sessions to upgrade their knowledge in the government's religious policies; such sessions include courses in Marxism and lessons on the importance of the Communist Party's leading role in society.