ASIA/CHINA - Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo and Easter

Friday, 16 April 2004

Rome (Fides Service) - Chinese Catholic Bishop Julius Jia, not recognised by the Beijing government, has been released.
On his release after ten days of detention he said it had been very painful to be away from his people for Holy Week and Easter .
When the Chinese authorities arrested the 69 year old Bishop on 5 April the Holy See Press Office said the arrest was “inadmissible” under a “rule of law”.
How did Bishop Julius celebrate Easter?
According to news agencies Bishop Julius was kept in total isolation from 5 - 14 April in one room of a modest military hotel in Shijiazhuang, main city of Hebei province. The police allowed him to take his liturgical books and everything necessary for the celebration of Mass in his hotel room. He celebrated all the Holy Week liturgies including the Chrism mass during which he blessed and consecrated the oils for his diocese.
“It was sad to celebrate Holy Week and Easter without my priests and my people”, Bishop Julius said reportedly on his release.
Although kept in strict isolation, no visits from family or faithful, the Bishop was well treated and he was allowed to use the hotel garden.
“All I could do was to pray and wait patiently, hoping all the time that they would let me go home for Easter” the Bishop said.
Why was he detained?
This is not the first time Bishop Julius has been detained. On previous occasions he was visited frequently by government officials who pressed him to join the Catholic Patriotic Association. This time he had only one visitor on April 13. The government official asked him a lot of questions and then recalled the anniversary of Bishop Peter Joseph Fan of Baoding, an important figure in the underground Church in China who died in prison on April 13 1992.
No initiatives had been planned to mark the anniversary, a date on which government control is always tightened.
Various information sources which reported the arrest of the Bishop, related the event more with the 12th anniversary of the death of Bishop Fan, than with the visit to China of the vice President of the United States 13 and 15 April.
Since it was the authorities which recalled the anniversary of the death of Bishop Fan, which might otherwise have been overlooked, we may well ask the whereabouts of Bishop’s Fan’s two successors Bishop An Shuxin, arrested in May 1996 and Bishop Su Zhimin arrested in October 1997. What has happened to these Bishops who succeeded Bishop Fan in the pastoral government of Baoding diocese? Are they dead or are they somewhere languishing in some state prison ?
These questions will probably go unanswered, just as there was no reply to declaration issued by the Holy See Press office with regard to the arrest of Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo. (Fides Service16/4/2004; Righe:42; Parole:502)