08/25/2008, 00.00
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Msgr. Jia Zhiguo taken by police

by Wang Zhicheng
The arrest took place shortly before ceremonies concluding the Olympics. The bishop had been under house arrest for months. Catholics fear a worsening of persecution and arrests now that the Olympic “truce” is over.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – On the concluding day of the Olympics, Msgr. Giulio Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding (Hebei), was taken away by police to an unknown location.  The bishop had been under house arrest for months.

According to AsiaNews sources, the bishop had celebrated Sunday mass together with a small group of faithful in Wuqiu Cathedral. At 10 in the morning, 4 police entered the Church and dragged him away without explanation.  The faithful have no idea of his whereabouts or why he was arrested.  One priest commented: “After the Olympics, everything is back to the way it was before in China”.

During the Olympics the government had kept many bishops and priests from the under ground Church under house arrest.  Msgr. Jia was under 24 hour surveillance.  Police had even built a shack from which to keep a constant eye on him day and night, outside the bishop’s home.

Public security had forbidden Christian meetings throughout the duration of the Olympics, to avoid tensions and problems that could damage China’s image in the eyes of the world.  But about one thousand faithful from Zhengding diocese, challenged the ban and came together to celebrate the feast of the Assumption in the Cathedral.  Police, in order to avoid clashes, ordered the bishop to celebrate mass, as they waited in the Church court yard.

73 year old Msgr. Jia, has already spent 15 years in prison (from’63 to ’78). Since 1989 he has been under strict police control. In all of these years he has been re-arrested and later released a total of 11 times.  Yesterday's was the twelfth.  In the past the Vatican often took up the cause for his release.  His diocese counts 110 thousand Catholics, at least 80 priests and 90 religious sisters.

Some underground Catholics have shared their fears with AsiaNews that this marks a new wave of arrests and a worsening persecution in the aftermath of the Olympics.



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