Chinese police arrested Bishop Giuseppe Guo Xijin of Mindong Monday night, just prior to the celebration of Holy Week, the most solemn period in the Christian calendar.
In a show of state power over the Church, officials arrived to the diocesan chancery around ten o’clock Monday night and took the bishop away along with the chancellor of the Diocese, Father Xu, according to a report Tuesday from Asianews, the official outlet of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.
Bishop Guo was called to the Chinese Office for Religious Affairs at 3:00pm Monday, where he was questioned by officials for more than two hours. He returned to the bishop’s residence at 7:00pm and prepared his luggage as if preparing to leave. Police showed up at 10:00pm and arrested him.
Although the contents of the bishop’s discussions with communist authorities is unknown, according to some of the faithful, the bishop was arrested for refusing to concelebrate the liturgy during the Easter holidays with the illicit bishop Zhan Silu.
Last October, the Vatican issued instructions to Bishop Guo to yield his post as bishop of Mindong to the government-approved Bishop Vincenzo Zhan Silu and to take up the role of his auxiliary, as a way of preparing for diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China. In December, a Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli visited Bishop Zhan, one of seven illegitimate bishops waiting for Vatican recognition and the man slated to replace Bishop Guo as the new bishop of Mindong.
On December 14, the Patriotic Catholic Association—the parallel “Catholic” church created by the Communist party—and the Council of Bishops issued a five-year plan aimed at “Sinicizing” the Catholic Church. The plan demands that all religions submit to the leadership of the Communist Party. Neither the Patriotic Association nor the Council of Bishops is recognized by Rome.
China’s highest ranking Catholic prelate, Cardinal Joseph Zen, published an open letter to the media in late January, accusing the Vatican of “selling out” the Church by caving in to demands of the Communist leaders.
The 86-year-old cardinal has been a vocal critic of recent diplomatic efforts by the Vatican to curry the favor of Chinese leaders. For years, members of the Chinese underground Church have suffered persecution for their faithfulness to Rome, and for their refusal to abandon the Church and join the state-controlled Patriotic Association.
Zen urged Pope Francis last year not to make a deal with the Chinese government that would undermine the sacrifice and fidelity of the underground Catholic Church in the country.
“We are very much worried because it seems that the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China,” the cardinal said at the time.
Pope Francis “is really naïve” and “doesn’t know the Chinese communists,” he said.
“So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China?” Zen asked in his open letter in January. “Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.”
At this same time last year Bishop Guo was arrested by police just prior to the Easter holidays, to prevent him from celebrating the festivities with his flock. Twenty days later he was released.
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