Underground bishop in China reported missing

St Paul's Cathedral in Wenzhou. Credit: 三猎 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).
St Paul's Cathedral in Wenzhou. Credit: 三猎 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

.- A Vatican-appointed Chinese bishop has reportedly been taken into custody by the government and is undergoing “isolation and indoctrination.”

This is Peter Shao Zhumin’s fifth arrest in just two years as a bishop. Chinese police have recently been detaining priests loyal to the underground Catholic Church nationwide.

Pope Francis appointed Shao Bishop of Wenzhou in September 2016. Shao had previously endured an 11-month detention beginning in September 2006, after he and another priest returned from a pilgrimage to Europe and were charged with “illegal exit.”

He was detained again during April 2017, ostensibly was to prevent him from celebrating the Triduum and Easter liturgies, which would have been his first time as head of the diocese.

Shao was also arrested in May 2017. La Croix International reported at the time he was summoned by the government’s religious bureau May 18, and released the following April.

Bishop Shao has now been missing for several days. During this most recent detention, Asia News reported, the Chinese police have pressured Shao to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Communist Party-supported body that seeks to manage the Church in China independently of the Vatican.

The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Chinese officials have not yet offered any information about Shao’s whereabouts.

Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.

A Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the Patriotic Association.

The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

Since the agreement in September, two CPCA bishops were invited to attend the synod on youth. These men are “known to be close to the Chinese government,” and their attendance at the synod is “an insult to the good bishops of China,” Cardinal Zen said.

Tags: Underground Church, PROC, People's Republic of China, Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association