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    » 02/12/2009, 00.00

    CHINA

    Underground bishop of Xiwanzi released after two and a half years in prison



    He had been arrested for consacrating a church without the consent of the Patriotic Association. The authorities view him only as a priest, and do not allow him to preside at large-scale activities. Two priests and 20 faithful of the diocese of Xiwanzi are still in prison. In Hebei, two bishops are still "disappeared" after many years.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews/UCAN) - Leo Yao Liang, the underground bishop of Xiwanzi, was set free shortly before the Chinese new year. He had been taken away by the police on July 30, 2006. Government officials have nonetheless warned him that he may not perform his office as bishop, or preside at large-scale Church activities.

    Bishop Yao, 85, is an unauthorized bishop, not recognized by the government and not a member of the Patriotic Association (PA). In all likelihood, he was arrested because the authorities discovered he consacrated a church in Guiyang county in mid-July 2006 without the consent of the Patriotic Association.The bishop and five of the 20 priests who concelebrated the Mass were detained for violating religious affairs regulations.

    While he was in prison, Bishop Yao was kept in various locations, always isolated from everyone else. Now the authorities are permitting him to see people, but he is not allowed to organize large assemblies. In Xiwanzi, the faithful were not even permitted to organize a celebration for his return.

    The diocese of Xiwanzi (Hebei) is a diocese of the underground Church, with 15,000 faithful, about 260 kilometers north of Beijing, almost on the border with Inner Mongolia. For months the police, egged on by the PA, have been carrying out a campaign against priests and bishops of the unauthorized Church. According to local sources, there are still 20 faithful and two priests in prison, arrested for organizing demonstrations and sit-ins to free their bishop.

    There are still two bishops from the area of Hebei - the region with the highest concentration of Catholics - being held by the police (in an unknown location):

    Bishop James Su Zhimin (diocese of Baoding), 75. He was arrested in 1996 and disappeared. In November of 2003, he was seen at a hospital in Baoding, under police supervision, where he was treated for his heart and his eyes. But a few days later, he disappeared again.

    Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang (diocese of Yixian), 86. Arrested on April 13, 2001. Bishop Shi, ordained bishop a 1982, he had been in prison for 30 years before that. He was arrested again in December of 1990, then released in 1993. He lived enforced isolation until his last arrest.

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    See also

    31/03/2009 CHINA - VATICAN
    Police arrest underground Zhengding bishop Jia Zhiguo
    He was taken from his home by 5 police officers. For weeks, he had been under surveillance 24 hours a day, to prevent him from meeting with the official bishop, with whom he had reconciled on instructions from the Vatican. A blow to the Holy See's strategy of unifying the Chinese Church, while the meeting of the Plenary Commission on the Church in China continues at the Vatican. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was also taunted by the police.

    02/07/2005 CHINA
    China: a priest of the underground church is released

    Fr Vincent Kong Guocun of the Wenzhou Diocese is freed after nearly six years of house arrest.



    20/12/2008 CHINA - VATICAN
    Beijing, Vatican must break with Taiwan and not interfere in domestic affairs
    Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the autonomy of the Chinese church in the area of the appointment and ordination of bishops. Patriotic bishop Ma Yinglin, ordained without the approval of the Holy See, also present. Hopes for dialogue with the Vatican may be vanishing.

    15/02/2007 CHINA
    Hunt for priests in Xiwanzi diocese
    Police are conducting door-to-door searches for underground priests to force them inscribe to the Patriotic Association. The bishop, two priests and 20 members of the community are in prison. Catholics who do not collaborate are forced to give up their work.

    15/12/2008 CHINA
    Celebrations concluded for 400th anniversary of Church in Shanghai
    Auxiliary bishop of China: with the end of the anniversary, our commitment continues. Celebrations marked by the "war" of local authorities and the Patriotic Association, to block the participation of 200,000 faithful in the pilgrimage on May 24 to the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan.



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