Xi Jinping's Easter: Another crackdown on the unofficial Church
Authorities have detained bishop Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou: he had been freed at the beginning of November after a previous arrest. Msgr. Cui Tai, bishop of Xuanhua, has also disappeared. He had been under house arrest for more than 10 years and there are suspicions of torture.
Rome (AsiaNews) - Before the Easter holidays, a new clampdown by the Chinese regime has arrived against the "unofficial" (underground) Church, recognised by the Vatican but not by Beijing, Catholic sources in China have revealed to AsiaNews.
On April 7, the authorities forced Msgr. Shao Zhumin, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang) to board a flight. The local faithful are worried because they do not know where their pastor is at the moment; police have also reportedly commandeered his cell phone. The suspicion is that the government wanted to prevent him from celebrating the functions of Holy Week, especially the Chrism Mass.
Some time ago the police had also arrested the secretary of the diocese Jiang Sunian, but he has since returned. This is not the first time that the police have arrested Bishop Shao, making him disappear for months at a time. At the beginning of November he was released after being detained for several days. He is often subjected to sessions in an attempt to brainwash him into joining the "official" Church, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Beijing's axe also fell on the diocese of Xuanhua (Hebei). In January, before the Lunar New Year, the authorities seized more than 10 religious, including Bishop Augustine Cui Tai (under house arrest for more than 10 years) and his deputy Zhang Jianlin. At the moment there is no news on their eventual release.
The crackdown on the local diocese is explained by the unprecedented tensions in the area of Zhangjiakou, which hosted several competitions of the recent Winter Olympics in Beijing. In the eyes of the government, concerned that everything go smoothly, the Catholic Church represented a destabilizing factor.
The diocese of Xuanhua was founded by the Holy See in 1946, but in 1980 the government established the official diocese of Zhangjiakou, joining the dioceses of Xuanhua and Xiwanzi. However, the diocese of Zhangjiakou is not recognized by the Holy See.
In addition to the ever-present pressure to accept the authority of the Catholic Patriotic Association - an expression of the CCP - the Chinese government is reportedly seeking news about Msgr. Zhao Kexun, who died in 2018 and until then was the ordinary bishop of Xuanhua. After a raid in 2007, he lived in hiding in a secret location to avoid problems with the authorities.
Police reportedly tortured Msgr. Cui (see photo) and several priests to obtain information about Msgr. Zhao, including where he is buried. For the Diocese of Xuanhua, this situation is an unprecedented disaster. Many bishops and priests have been arrested and have not been released. The faithful are not receiving pastoral care. News stories are circulating on the internet that defame and slander the Underground Church.
The signing in 2018, and renewal in October 2020, of the Sino-Vatican Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops has not stopped the persecution of its members, especially the unofficial ones.