Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou freed after 7 months

He was released from police custody yesterday. From Xining, where he was, he will go to Beijing for treatment and then return to his diocese. His liberation - it is assumed - is the result of international pressure and the campaign of prayers and fasts launched by his community. He has not signed any membership of the Patriotic Association.

Wenzhou (AsiaNews) - Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), recognized by the Holy See, but not by the government, has  been released. On May 18, 2017, he was taken by police and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and distanced from his diocese. Since yesterday he is free to move and is no longer under police custody. AsiaNews sources in Wenzhou say that he is not yet in his city, but he is in Xining (Qinghai), 2500 km from Wenzhou, where he was brought by police.

The reason for his release is still unclear. According to some faithful, it is the result of the campaign of prayers and fasts launched by the diocese last December 18 (see photo), which immediately spread throughout the world. In releasing him, the police hope to prevent his case gaining even more global exposure. In the last few months, the German ambassador in Beijing, Michael Clauss, called for his release. Even the Holy See had expressed concern over his fate.

The last time he was seen was on September 11th at the Tongren Hospital in Beijing where he underwent ear surgery. On that occasion he posted a message on his Wechat account asking his faithful to pray for him, but not to visit him. After the operation, still under police custody, he was taken to Xining for his convalescence.

AsiaNews sources say that, before returning to Wenzhou, he will have to go through Beijing: to the hospital where he was treated for the fitting of a hearing aid.

In all these months, the police applied psychological pressure on him to make him join the Patriotic Association, the party body designed to establish a Church independent of the Holy See. Faced with his refusal, in early December, representatives of religious affairs asked him to undersign the four conditions for receiving government recognition of his episcopal status. They include his support for the principle of an independent Church; support for self-nomination and self-ordination [of bishops]; concelebration with an illicit bishop, not recognized by the Vatican; the submission to the new religious regulations that will be launched next February. Bu again Msgr. Shao refused.

For decades the Catholic community of Wenzhou - about 130,000 faithful - has been divided between official and non-official communities: more than 80 thousand belong to the unofficial community. There are 70 priests, divided equally between the two communities. Msgr Shao, 54, despite being a member of the underground Church, is also appreciated by the official community.