09/14/2006, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN
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Zhouzhi bishop arrested; he defied government for love of the Pope

On 11 September, a unit of around 30 policemen scaled the wall of the parish where Mgr Wu Qinjing lives. They took him away without charging him with anything, after mistreating an 80-year-old priest and some sisters. The bishop from the official church had been ordained by Mgr Li Duan without government permission.

Zhouzhi (AsiaNews) – Police from the northern Shaanxi province arrested the bishop of Zhouzhi, Mgr Martin Wu Qinjing, on 11 September. In order to avoid compromising his faith and loyalty to the Pope, he had celebrated solemn mass despite government threats. The news was revealed to AsiaNews by a local source that remains anonymous for security reasons.

At 10pm on 11 September, around 30 policemen drew up in four armoured cars outside the largest parish of the diocese. Finding the doors closed, they scaled the wall and woke the bishop.

Behaving violently, the officers pushed away an elderly 80-year-old priest, four seminarians and four sisters who tried to stop them. As soon as they reached the bishop, they threatened and arrested him, without making any charges against him. He was taken away to an unknown location. It is unclear whether the sisters were arrested too.

Mgr Wu is a bishop of the official church. He was ordained in October 2005 by the deceased archbishop of Xian, Mgr Anthony Li Duan. His ordination – approved by the Holy See – was not recognized by the government, which defined it as a "illegal".

In reality, the local authorities had planned to put another priest in the place of Mgr Wu. This priest, Zhao Yinshen, is famous for his business flair and for doing favours for the government. The only problem is that he does not enjoy any respect among local Catholics, except for a handful of members of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics [PA, the organization controlling the Church in China, which aims to build a nationalist church detached from Rome].

After his ordination, the government warned Mgr Wu "not to behave as a bishop" and to keep a low profile among the faithful: he has been continuously molested by police, who went so far as to prevent him from carrying out his ministry, "stopping him for checks" every time there were public occasions like first Holy Communion or Confirmation ceremonies.

His ordination was finally made public on 22 May last. On 25 May, Mgr Li Duan died and two days later, defying government threats, Mgr Wu celebrated mass in Zhouzhi cathedral: he was not wearing Episcopal vestments but he wore a red beret on his head and carried a pastoral ring on his finger.

According to a local source, the PA "warned him, then asked him and finally ordered him not to behave as a bishop: his move in May was the final challenge." The source continued: "Our bishop would like to give the government the necessary time to recognize him, but at the same time he is firm in his resolve not to stoop to compromises with the Catholic faith and loyalty with the Pope."

The diocese of Zhouzhi counts 60,000 Catholics, 54 priests, 200 churches, 120 seminarians 208 sisters. The source added: "This conduct is worthy of terrorists and brings tears to the eyes of all those who love peace. We call on everyone to pray for our bishop so that he may return quickly, safe and sound."

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