.- Bishop Julio Jia Zhiguo, 70, member of the China's underground Catholic church, has been arrested for the sixth time in 18 months, as the government continues harassing unofficial congregations, the Cardinal Kung Foundation denounced today. Government officials picked up Bishop Jia Zhiguo, from the diocese of Zhengding in northern Hebei province, from his home and drove him to an unknown location early Monday.
"Government officials telephoned Bishop Jia in advance, notifying him that he was being picked up and ordered him he was to tell the people that he was being taken away by the government officials to visit a physician; Bishop Jia is not sick at present and there is no need for him to visit a physician," declared the Foundation in a statement.
Bishop Jia, who was consecrated as bishop in 1980, previously spent 20 years in jail. Since January 2004 the Prelate has been arrested six times, last one in September when two security officers forced him to take a three-day tour to a different town.
"Adding insult to injury, they forced the bishop to pay for the hotel and meal expenses, including those of government officials who watched over him," the Foundation said.
According to Asianews, everytime an important religious feast approaches, such as Christmas or Easter, Bishop Jia is arrested and forced to go through what they call “religious training”.
Back in 1999, in an attempt to block Bishop Jia’s missioning labor, the police forbid him to open a shelter home for orphans and disabled children, however, due to international pressure, the government lift the sanction and the orphanage is still providing help to needy children.
Relations between Beijing and the Holy See have been severed for more than 50 years, since the Communists took power at the end of China's civil war and expelled the Vatican's ambassador in 1951--a move that was followed by the severance of diplomatic ties.
Beijing refuses to recognize the authority of the Vatican and the Pope over Chinese Catholics, who can only legally worship at state-sanctioned churches.
Establishing diplomatic relations with China is a priority for the Vatican, but China has demanded the Vatican first break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as its own territory.
The government's Patriotic Catholic church claims 4 million believers. On the other hand, foreign experts say the underground Catholic Church counts 12 million followers.