Vatican says arrest of Chinese bishop creates obstacles to dialogue

Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo
Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo


As a meeting on the Church in China drew to a close yesterday, news reached participants that Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 74, was re-arrested. The Vatican has reacted by saying the move creates "obstacles to that constructive dialogue" that the Church has been trying to establish with government authorities.

The meeting lasted from March 30 to April 1 and addressed the need for better formation of clergy and consecrated people, drawing upon Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics.

The commission, which includes representatives of the Chinese episcopate and of religious congregations, also expressed how their work in this area is hampered by the "complex problems of the current ecclesial situation in China, problems deriving not just from internal difficulties of the Church, but also from the uneasy relations with the civil authorities."

This discussion quickly brought the news of the re-arrest of Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding on Monday to the fore, an action that the commission "greeted with profound anguish."

"Situations of this kind create obstacles to that constructive dialogue with the competent authorities which, as is known, the Holy Father in his above-mentioned Letter expressed the hope might be pursued," the Vatican commissioners said.

"This is not, unfortunately, an isolated case," they noted. "Other ecclesiastics are also deprived of their freedom and subject to undue pressures and limitations in their pastoral activities."

"To all of them the participants wish to send assurances of fraternal closeness and constant prayers in this time of Lent, illuminated by the Paschal Mystery," said a statement from the Vatican.

The meeting concluded with an audience with the Holy Father, who underlined the importance of helping Catholics in China to tell others of the beauty and reasonableness of Christian faith, and to present it as the proposal offering the best answers from an intellectual and existential standpoint.

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