Government officials arrested a bishop of the “underground” Chinese Catholic Church on Friday, sentencing him without trial to a period of “isolation and indoctrination” following the signing of an accord between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Police seized Peter Shao Zhumin, the bishop of Wenzhou, at 9:00 a.m. Friday and will hold him for a period of re-education lasting perhaps “10 or 15 days,” reported AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.
The CCP appears to be using the China-Vatican deal as an excuse to purge the underground Church that has remained loyal to Rome for decades, arresting clerics who refuse to join the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association and demolishing churches and shrines deemed overly western.
Last week, communist officials arrested four underground priests for refusing to enroll in the Patriotic Association, subjecting them to a period of “indoctrination.”
As Breitbart News reported, police seized two priests of the Diocese of Xiwanzi — Fr. Zhang Guilin and Fr. Wang Zhong — and two more from the diocese of Xuanhua — Fr. Su Guipeng and Fr. Zhao He.
In late September, the Vatican signed an agreement with the Communist party, yielding an unspecified amount of control over the appointment of Catholic bishops. In explaining the move, Pope Francis said he wished “to reestablish and preserve the full and visible unity of the Catholic community in China.”
As a show of good faith toward the officially atheist Chinese government, the Vatican removed underground bishops from the leadership of Chinese dioceses and replaced them with bishops who had been ordained illicitly, without approval from Rome.
After China and the Vatican signed their deal, “the Patriotic Association and the United Front have been waging a campaign” to remind all priests that the Church in China is independent from Rome, obliging all underground priests to join the Patriotic Association, AsiaNews said.
The government crackdown on Christian symbols has likewise escalated since the signing of the China-Vatican agreement. In October, officials demolished two Catholic pilgrimage sites dedicated to the Virgin Mary and stepped up their crusade to remove the symbol of the cross from Christian churches around the country.
The 55-year-old Bishop Shao is still recognized by the Holy See as the official bishop of Wenzhou, even though the CCP does not acknowledge him in this role. During the past two years, police have seized him at least five times. The last time was in May 2017 when he was held in custody for seven months.
Out of fidelity to Rome, Bishop Shao has refused to enlist in the Catholic Patriotic Association, which is officially independent from Vatican authority. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said in his letter to Chinese Catholics that the association is “irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine.”
According to its own statutes, the declared purpose of the Catholic Patriotic Association is to implement “the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church,” Benedict wrote, which is “incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”
The Catholic community in Wenzhou has about 130,000 faithful, more than 80,000 of whom belong to the underground community, and has 70 priests, divided evenly between the official and unofficial churches.
During the recent octave of the dead following All Souls Day (November 2), priests of Wenzhou were forbidden to visit the tombs of underground priests and bishops, who are highly esteemed by all the faithful.
Moreover, authorities have prohibited minors from going to church on Sundays and have outlawed Sunday School, both for the official and unofficial churches.
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