08/21/2008, 00.00
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Underground Catholics defy police ban, celebrate mass with their bishop

by Wang Zhicheng
It happened in Zhengding on the feast day of the Assumption. Fearing bad publicity during the Olympics, police allow Bishop Jia Zhiguo to celebrate mass, but he is still banned from meeting priests and seminarians.
Zhengding (AsiaNews) – More than a thousand underground Catholics defied police controls to meet in a church in Wuqiu (Hebei) to celebrate mass on the feast day of the Assumption of Mary with their bishop, Julius Jia Zhiguo, who has been under house arrest and police surveillance around the clock. Sources told AsiaNews however that the bishop is isolated and that priests and seminarians cannot see him in person. Monsignor Jia is bishop of the underground diocese of Zhengding (Hebei), which has more than 110,000 Catholics with 80 priests and more than 90 nuns.

For the Olympics public security officers warned Catholics in the diocese not to celebrate the feast in Wuqiu cathedral. Prelates and priests were placed instead under house arrest.

Mgr Jia Zhiguo himself has been under police surveillance around the clock since April. The police even build a small house in front of the bishop’s residence just to monitor him.

The solemnity of the Assumption is a major Catholic celebration in China. At least a thousand faithful peacefully flocked to the church in Wuqiu in defiance of police order.

The bishop’s residence is located just beside the place of worship.

To avoid conflict and other problems, the public security officers monitoring the cathedral allowed the large crowd to go in. The officers did not follow them into the church but maintained order in the courtyard.

The bishop was thus able to celebrate mass with the faithful.

Sources in Zhengding told AsiaNews that the bishop remains in isolation and cannot see or meet his seminarians or priests.

Pastoral activities are in the hands of priests who were warned however to keep a low profile when they held meetings.

At least six priests have been forced by the security forces to take “involuntary holidays” during the Olympic period.

A deacon was expected to be ordained but will likely have to wait until October after the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Monsignor Jia, 73, spent 15 years in prison (1963-1978). Since 1989 he has been closely monitored by police, and has been arrested and released 11 times.

In the past the Vatican has often pleaded his cases to Chinese authorities.

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See also
Mgr Jia Zhiguo freed, still under surveillance day and night
Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, who wanted to disseminate the Pope’s letter, is arrested
Too much atheism and interference from the state, says Mgr Jia Zhiguo
Mgr Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding, released after 10 months
Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo released in Hebei


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