Vatican calls on China to let bishop exercise his ministry

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican expressed “grave
concern” over the situation of a bishop in mainland China who has been in
government custody for almost 10 months and moved repeatedly in an apparent
attempt to prevent him from assuming leadership of his diocese.

Peter Shao Zhumin had been coadjutor bishop of Wenzhou and should have taken over leadership of
the diocese in September when his predecessor died. Instead, officials took him
to northern China “on a trip.”

“The Holy See is following with grave concern the
personal situation of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, forcibly removed
from his episcopal see some time ago,” said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican
press office, in a statement June 26.

“The diocesan Catholic community and his relatives have
no news or reasons for his removal, nor do they know where he is being held,”
Burke said.

The treatment of Bishop Zhumin “and other similar
episodes,” Burke said, do not foster the kind of understanding that the
Vatican wants to reach with the Chinese government.

While Bishop Zhumin was approved by the Vatican as bishop of
Wenzhou, his election was not recognized by the government.

The Vatican hopes that the bishop “may return as soon
as possible to the diocese and that he can be assured the possibility of
serenely exercising his episcopal ministry,” Burke said.

Clauss, Germany’s
ambassador to China, posted a statement on his embassy’s website June 20
saying the bishop appears to have been forced by authorities to move to unknown
locations four times over the past year, the Associated Press reported. The
ambassador called on China to allow the bishop full freedom of movement.

AsiaNews, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, said June 21
that Chinese authorities appeared to be trying to get Bishop Zhumin to join the
Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The bishop was seen arriving at Wenzhou
airport June 16, “accompanied by government officials, who took him to an unknown
location,” AsiaNews said.

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