Elderly Catholic bishop arrested in China

religion | Aug 25, 2008 | By Martin Barillas

Roman Catholic Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, Hebei province, China, was arrested again by local authorities. Bishop Jia Zhiguo belongs to the “underground” church not recognized by China’s communist government. He was arrested on the morning of August 24, the twelfth such arrest since January 2004. Zhengding is a small village situated approximately 100 miles south of Beijing. Its Roman Catholic community numbers approximately 110,000. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was consecrated bishop in 1980.

Government officials arrived in vehicles at Christ the King Cathedral at WuQiu while his current whereabouts are unknown at this time. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was last arrested in August 2007 and released four months later. The reasons for his current unrest are as yet unclear. After his release in December 2007, the bishop was consigned to house arrest and not allowed to receive visitors unaccompanied by government watchers. Police patrols prevented visitors to the bishop during his house arrest.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo is nearly 74 years old and in delicate health, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. During his confinement at home, his requests for medical treatment were denied by Chinese authorities. The bishop has now spent at least 18 years in prison.

There are now approximately 40 underground bishops in China. According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, they are in prison, have disappeared, or under house arrest or surveillance. Bishop Su Zhimin of Baoding and Bishop Shi Enxiang of Yixian were arrested in October, 1997 and April 2001 respectively. There has been no news about them since then and it is not known whether they are still alive. Bishop Han DinXiang of Yong Nian, was arrested in December 1999 and died suddenly in prison on September 9, 2007 in very mysterious and suspicious circumstances. Not allowed a Catholic burial, by order of the government the bishop was cremated and buried within 6 hours of his death.

China continued to repress human rights activitists, journalists, and foreign visitors during the recently ended Olympic Games despite promises of reform. Christians whose worship is not authorized by the government face persecution. As for the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in June 2007 letter to China “Many bishops have undergone persecution and have been impeded in the exercise of their ministry, and some of them have made the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood.”



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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