Chinese authorities have arrested the coadjutor bishop of Wenzhou, China, and local faithful say it is to prevent him from taking possession of the diocese after the death of Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang.
AsiaNews, the Rome-based missionary news agency, said police took Coadjutor Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin out of the diocese in early September. Under canon law, a coadjutor would take over the diocese when the bishop retires or dies.
AsiaNews reported that Bishop Shao was taken to northwest China “on a trip”. The diocesan chancellor, Fr Paul Jian Sunian, was escorted by police to Yunnan, and another priest was held in a hotel.
The news agency said the government is opposed to Bishop Shao because, although his appointment was recognised by the Vatican, it was not recognised by the government.
Local Chinese police also restricted the number of people at Bishop Zhu’s upcoming funeral to 400 and said participants had to receive a permit to attend.
About 120,000 Catholics live in the Wenzhou area, reported AsiaNews. For years, some practised clandestinely, while others had leaders who registered with the government.
AsiaNews reported that, in an attempt to reconcile the two communities, the Vatican had appointed Bishop Zhu, who registered with the government, as bishop, and Bishop Shao as coadjutor.
Wenzhou is sometimes called “China’s Jerusalem” because of all its houses of worship. In past years, the local government in Wenzhou waged a campaign to demolish religious symbols, including churches and crosses. Local officials said the buildings were erected without permits, but church officials said local officials took years to process the permits.
Bishop Zhu served in a “reform-through-labor” camp for 16 years during the Cultural Revolution and again was imprisoned from 1982 to 1988.
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