04/25/2007, 00.00
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Shaanxi bishop in custody for over a month

Mgr Wu from Zhouzhi was ordained as a bishop in the official Church but with Vatican approval. Yet he is rejected by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and is being pressured to give up his diocese.

Xian (AsiaNews) – Mgr Martin Wu Qinjing, bishop of Zhouzhi (Shaanxi), has been held by police and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association for over a month. Many faithful claim that he is being subjected to endless political sessions to force him to give up his diocese.

The bishop was forcibly taken form his church on March 17. His whereabouts are not known, local sources said, but he is thought to be in either Lintong or Xian for on a ‘study retreat.’ Contacts with the faithful or any priests from his diocese are prohibited.

Mgr Wu Qinjing is a bishop with the official Church. He was consecrated in 2005 to replace the late Mgr Anthony Li Duan, archbishop of Xian. Although his appointment was approved by the Vatican, his leadership is not recognised by the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, an organisation that seeks to build a Church independent of Rome. For this organisation Bishop Wu’s ordination was illegal because he had violated a regulation that bans religious bodies from being controlled by “foreign influences.”

In reality, the Patriotic Association opposes Bishop Wu because it had another, more compliant candidate that had already done various economic favours to the organisation.

According to a government document released on March 9, Bishop “Wu Qinjing should not run any church affairs as a bishop and should not interfere with the Zhouzhi diocese management.”

The document said the government had been “educating” Bishop Wu since May last year but added that the bishop was still “brazenly conducting illegal religious activities.”

In September of last year, the bishop was detained for a few days because he dared to celebrate a mass wearing the bishop’s skullcap.

Even when he is not in detention his services are constantly interrupted.

The government document, which has been distributed among Catholics in Zhouzhi diocese, called on Catholics to "draw a line of demarcation" around the bishop.

But the 60,000 faithful in Zhouzhi diocese greatly appreciate Mgr Wu for his zeal and knowledge (he trained in the United States) and are using all the means at their disposal to get him released in order to bring him back to lead their diocese.

A priest told AsiaNews that on Easter Sunday, April 8, a message from the bishop was read out “to his beloved Catholics,” asking for their prayers regarding “the restriction of his freedom, [on the day] when Jesus Christ died, suffered and resurrected in glory.”

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