07/05/2005, 00.00
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Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo arrested

With 20 years of imprisonment already behind him, this is Bishop Jia's 6th arrest. 

Beijing (AsiaNews) -- Monsignor Julius Jia Zhiguo, age 70, underground Bishop of Zhengding (Hebei, northern China), was arrested outside his home yesterday at 3:30 p.m. (local time).  News of his arrest came from the Kung Foundation.  Bishop Jia was taken away by two men to an unknown destination.

Government officials had warned the churchman in advance of the arrest and had ordered him to tell people that he was being taken away for medical tests.  Msgr Jia is currently not ill, nor is he in need of any medical treatment.

Msgr Jia has been a bishop since 1980 and has already spent 20 years in prison.  His is one of the most vivacious dioceses in Hebei, the area with the highest concentration of Catholics, some 1.5 million.  He lives almost constantly under house arrest.  Not being recognized by the government, he is technically not allowed to exercise his ministry.  For this reason, prior to important religious celebrations (Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, the Feast of the Assumption), he is taken into custody and forced to undergo indoctrination sessions, to prevent celebrations and gatherings by underground Christians.  At other times, such as important Party meetings or visits from foreign heads of state and other prominent figures, he is segregated to some secret location.  In 1999, to thwart his activities in evangelization, the police tried to close down an orphanage for abandoned and handicapped children.  Authorities, however, had to backtrack on their intent, due to international pressure.  The bishop shares his home with some 100 disabled children whom he supports at his own expense.

This is Bishop Jia's 6th arrest since January 2004.  His first detention dates back to April 5, 2004, when a government vehicle appeared outside his home and took him way without any explanation.  On that occasion, the Vatican protested with a statement by the Holy See Press Office Director, Joaquin Navarro Valls, who said that Msgr Jiulius Jia Zhiguo's arrest was "not admissible in a lawful state which claims to guarantee religious freedom and to respect and preserve human rights."  The Bishop was then taken into custody from June 13 to 18 of the same year.  He was later arrested by police on three other occasions, in September, December and January 2005, when he was locked up for 3 days in Shijiazhuang (Hebei).

These repeated arrests and other forms of harassment are an attempt to convince Bishop Jia to adhere to the Patriotic Association, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party which seeks to control the official Catholic Church.  One of its openly-admitted goals is to create a Church independent from the Holy See and the pope. 

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See also
Petition to Chinese Parliament: free bishops and priests
List of bishops and priests in prison, isolation or labour camps
Estimated statistics for the Catholic Church in China (2004)*
Underground Catholic priest released
Shame over Msgr. Shao Zhumin, the bishop kidnapped by police


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