The bishop, recognised by the Vatican but not by government, has been in the hands of the police for seven months. He is convalescing from an operation, but watched by security forces, 2,500 km from his diocese. To be recognised by the government, he must join an independent Church (not under the Holy See), accept the self-appointment and self-ordination of bishops, concelebrate with an unlawful bishop, and obey new regulations. The faithful will pray and fast on the 18th of every month.
Wenzhou (AsiaNews) – Wenzhou diocese in eastern Zhejiang province has begun a monthly prayer campaign on 18 December to prayer for their bishop, Peter Shao Zhumin, who is currently under house arrest in Xining city of northwestern Qinghai province, some 2,500 km away.
The underground bishop who is not recognized by the government has been taken away from his diocese the fourth time since he succeeded late Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang as the ordinary bishop of the diocese in September 2016.
His latest detention began on May 18. He re-surfaced at Beijing Tongren Hospital for an ear surgery on 11 September. He left a message and a photo of himself on his Wechat account asking his faith to pray for him but not to visit him.
About a week before the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October, Bishop Shao was taken away from Beijing to Xining and has been staying with a Catholic family there since then, according to a faithful in Wenzhou.
“He was not allowed to go back to the diocese. Since he needs six months for recuperation, the diocese negotiated with the authorities to let Bishop Shao stay at a layman’s family from Wenzhou so that he could get good care. Meanwhile, some security and religious officials from Wenzhou also stationed in Xining to monitor him,” the layman, Paulus, told AsiaNews in October.
In early December, some religious officials have asked Bishop Shao to sign a paper listed with four conditions for him to get government recognition. They include demanding him to support an independent Church principle, support self-election and self-ordination of Chinese bishops, concelebrate a Mass with an illicit bishop not recognized by the Vatican, and to abide to the new religious regulations that comes into effect next February, a diocesan source told AsiaNews.
“It’s like going back to the time in the 1980s. The bishop declined to sign it,” said the diocesan source, adding that “Bishop Shao has been away for seven months already. The prospect for his freedom does not seem good. Everyone in the diocese is worry so we initiate a prayer campaign at the start of the new liturgical year.”
“Praying is the duty for every Catholics and the prayer campaign is voluntary. We are not exerting pressure on the authority but just hope that our bishop could come back safely through our fasting and prayers,” he said.
All the parishes of the underground community in Wenzhou held the prayer service in their own venues on 18 December along with a day of fast. The prayer service will continue to be hold on the 18th of each month with Adoration of the Blessed Sacraments and a Mass.