Arrested in May, the bishop has not yet been released. The 10 priests arrested with him were released, while the seminarians were sent home. The religious were allegedly "brainwashed" during "political sessions". The Catholic community prays for Msgr Zhang's release and that he be left in peace.
Rome (AsiaNews) - The fate of the bishop of Xinxiang (Henan), Msgr Joseph Zhang Weizhu, arrested in May along with 10 priests and as many seminarians, is still unknown.
AsiaNews has ascertained that the police detained Mgr Zhang in the seminary in Cangzhou (Hebei). The official version is that at the time of the arrest, the authorities had invited the bishop and the priests "for tea". The police have since released the 10 religious and sent the seminarians home. However, Msgr Zhang has not yet returned to his home.
The Bishop of Xinxiang has been in office since 1991. He is recognised by the Holy See, but not by the Chinese government, which makes him a "criminal". In the same way, the 10 priests arrested are also "criminals" because they refuse to sign up to the so-called "Independent Church" and submit to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as required by the New Regulations on Religious Activities.
The arrest of Msgr Zhang is a further demonstration that the agreement between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops has not changed the past dynamics, with the CCP continuing to tightly control the activities of religious personnel.
The Catholic community in Xinxiang denounced the treatment meted out to Msgr Zhang and the priests. Isolated and subjected to "political sessions", the faithful believe they have been subjected to a veritable "brainwashing", during which the principles of religious freedom granted by the Party are inculcated.
Highlighting their serious concern about his situation, the faithful of the diocese have written a prayer that the bishop may have peace and freedom: "Lord our God, Father of all peoples, you have chosen your servant, Bishop Zhang Weizhu, to be the pastor of your people. We pray that you will give him the strength and courage to face the difficulties encountered during his ministry; we pray that you will give him physical and inner peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who is God, and lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever".