Chinese Catholics Call for Release of Illegally Detained Underground Bishop

Joseph Zen
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — May 21 marks the one-year anniversary of the illegal arrest of Xinxiang Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu, and local faithful are calling for his liberation.

As Breitbart News reported, officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) arrested the bishop of Xinxiang on May 21, 2021, along with 10 priests and 10 seminarians, in an effort to apply further pressure to the illegal underground Catholic Church.

Police originally took the bishop and priests to a hotel where they were kept in solitary confinement and subjected to “political sessions” to indoctrinate them with the CCP’s understanding of religious freedom, according to a report by AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

The seminarians were released after three days and the priests followed several days later, yet Bishop Zhang is still in police custody, illegally held without charges or trial at an unknown location. Chinese law stipulates that no one can be detained in solitary confinement without charges for more than three months.

Two family members were allowed to see the bishop for a few minutes during Lunar New Year celebrations, but no one is aware of where he is being held and priests are not permitted to visit or call him.

AsiaNews reported that the Catholic community in Xinxiang still hopes for their bishop’s release, while also growing worried about his physical and mental health.

The Vatican has apparently made no appeal for Bishop Zhang’s liberation.

When Hong Kong police arrested Cardinal Joseph Zen — Asia’s senior Catholic prelate — on May 11, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin expressed his “closeness” to Cardinal Zen but was quick to insist that the arrest should not be read as “a disavowal” of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and the CCP on the appointments of bishops.

“The most concrete hope is that initiatives such as this one will not complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Zen (pictured) has been released on bail, but his travel documents have reportedly been confiscated.

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