Beijing (AsiaNews) - Despite repeated requests of Catholics and their families, Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding (Hebei), will remain under sequester during the festivities of Chinese New Year, which begins tomorrow. With him, two other underground bishops remain segregated in unknown places in the hands of police.
Meanwhile, police in Zhengding areas have in recent weeks released two priests of the diocese: Fr. Hu Baoguo, vicar general, was released on Jan. 29 at 10 pm, Fr. Ma Hong'en was released on 6 January. Underground priests were often targeted and subjected to periods of imprisonment to force them to join the Patriotic Association, the state body that wants to build a National Catholic Church, separate from Rome.
In recent months, the family of Bishop Jia, and especially his nephew, along with lay leaders of the diocese have constantly appealed to the leaders of the Religious Affairs Bureau to free the bishop for the New Year celebrations, which are an important appointment for families to come together. But today it was confirmed that the bishop will remain in police custody.
Bishop Jia Zhiguo was arrested on 30 March, 2009, as the Vatican Commission on China held a closed-door encounter. At the conclusion of the meeting, a statement by the Vatican asked for his release (see: 31/03/2009 Police arrest underground Zhengding bishop Jia Zhiguo and 02/04/2009 Vatican's "sadness" over arrest of Bishop Jia Zhiguo. The Church and formation).
Catholics of Zhengding and the village of Wuqiu, home to the cathedral, continue to "pray for his release and his return to pastoral work." According to AsiaNews sources, "Mgr. Jia is in good health and his mind is clear". The prelate’s nephew was able to visit his uncle in late January.
During his detention, with Bishop Jia has been allowed to celebrate Mass alone and to read the Compendium of the Pope's letter to Chinese Catholics issued in May 2009. A few police officers charged with overseeing Bishop Jia's cathedral are present only on Sundays. The Bishop was also absent at the memorial Mass to commemorate a year after the death of his uncle, Fr Joseph Jia Fuqin, who died December 26, 2009.
Bishop Jia Zhiguo was arrested on 30 March, during a close encounter of the Vatican Commission on China. At the conclusion of the rally, a statement by the Vatican has asked for his release (see: 31/03/2009 seized by the police Msgr. Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding 02/04/2009 and "pain" of the Vatican to stop Msgr. Jia Zhiguo. The Church and training).
Just like Bishop Jia, two other bishops remain seized in police custody in unknown locations.
The first is Bishop James Su Zhimin (diocese of Baoding, Hebei), 75, arrested and disappeared since 1996. In November 2003 he was seen in a hospital in Baoding, controlled by the police, where he underwent treatment for the heart and eyes. But after a few days he disappeared again. The second is Mgr. Cosma Shi Enxiang (diocese of Yixian, Hebei), 86, who was arrested and disappeared April 13, 2001. Bishop Shi, ordained a bishop in '82, had been in prison for 30 years. The last time he was arrested in December '90, and released in '93. Since then he has lived in forced isolation until his latest arrest.
AsiaNews sources say that there are some underground priests in prison. And some other underground bishops in isolation.