Mgr Peter Shao Zhumin under guard in a Beijing hospital
by Bernardo Cervellera

He underwent an ear operation. He was banned from attending the funeral of an elderly witness to the faith, Fr John Wang, who spent 12 years of in a prison camp. The bishop’s secretary was also taken to prevent him from attending Fr Wang’s funeral.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Mgr Peter Shao Zhumin, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), is in a Beijing hospital for treatment (picture 1). Since May he has been closely monitored by police and the Religious Affairs Bureau, unable to perform his episcopal functions.

For the Holy See he is the ordinary bishop of Wenzhou, but the government does not recognise him as such because he belongs to the underground Catholic community.

Because of this he has been constantly prevented from serving his diocese and congregation, subjected to "religious education" to get him to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Church's supervisory body, whose purpose is to build a Catholic community separate from the Holy See.

Mgr Shao was taken by police in April, a few days before Easter. According to some of the members of his diocese, he is currently in Beijing, from where the picture of him in pajamas (pictured) was sent. He is said to have undergone an ear operation.

His departure for Beijing prevented him from attending the funeral of a great witness to the faith, the underground priest Fr John Wang Zhongfa (picture 2), who died on 2 September.

Fr Wang, 86, after 1956 – when he was still a seminarian – spent 12 years of forced labour in Baoanzhi (Inner Mongolia). After purging his sentence, he was banned from his home town, Qianku, and opted to remain in the province. It would be another 12 years before he could return home.

In the diocese, he worked extensively for evangelisation, promoting priestly vocations and a diocesan institute for the missionary nuns of the Heart of Jesus.

Over the past few weeks he had been hospitalised and Mgr Shao had been granted permission to visit him, always escorted by religious officials. But he was not allowed to attend the funeral.

Likewise, police detained Mgr Shao’s secretary, Fr Paul Jiang Sunian, and took him to a secret place to prevent him from attending Fr Wang’s funeral.

The faithful hope that Fr Jiang that Mgr Shao may able to return to the diocese soon.

The German government has publicly expressed itself for Mgr Shao’s release. Even the Vatican, in a rare critical pronouncement, expressed "serious concern" about the bishop’s fate.