China releases Catholic bishop after Easter

Underground Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, from the Diocese of Zhengding, was released at 1.30 p.m. on April 14, sources in Beijing told the Rome-based Catholic News Agency AsiaNews.

“The timing and release of the bishop does not surprise us at all. We had already imagined that he would be released (after Easter).”

“We don’t understand why the government insists every year on repeating the same useless act, arresting our bishop before every important liturgical celebration. Such forceful attempts by the government don’t change our faith and our joy in the Lord’s Resurrection,” the sources told AsiaNews. 

The bishop was arrested on the afternoon of April 5, and held in custody in Shijiazhuang. The government does not allow for church activities which are not registered and controlled by the Religious Affairs Bureau.  Therefore, police officials arrest underground priests and bishops (between Easter and Pentecost and just before Christmas) in order to prevent what they term incidents of “social disorder”, that is, non-government approved and regulated liturgical celebrations  

Bishop Jia Zhiguo is regularly taken in by police one week a month. In years past he was always arrested right before Easter. In 2002 he was arrested in March, a few days before Holy Week.

Last March the same bishop was arrested again. Yet since he was sick, he was immediately released. “Normally” Bishop Jia is detained for 3 months and then released. According to some underground Catholics the bishop’s release, like that of Bishop Wei Jingyi (also last March) is attributed to the open criticism the Vatican has voiced against the incidents.

Msgr. Julius Jia Zhiguo, 69, and bishop since 1980, has already spent 20 years behind bars. He heads one of the most active dioceses in Hebei, the region with highest concentration of Catholics—numbering roughly 1.5 million.

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