Bishop Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou is often abducted before major church celebrations.
As of today, the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Wenzhou, China, is still missing. And based on the past behavior of Chinese authorities Bishop Shao Zhumin could be gone for a while.
AsiaNews, a publication of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, reported the abduction of Bishop Shao, 58, on Monday, based on their “sources on the ground,” who said the bishop was “officially taken away ‘on vacation.’”
“It is not the first time the police have arrested Msgr. Shao, making him disappear for months,” AsiaNews said. “The authorities regularly subject him to ‘brainwashing’ sessions to make him accept the directives of the ‘patriotic’ religious bodies, linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Bishop of Wenzhou is recognized by the Pope, but not by the Party, which claims to exercise its control over all religious activities.”
On one occasion when he disappeared, Bishop Shao was all of a sudden found in a Beijing hospital, about 1,000 miles to the north of Wenzhou.
Meanwhile, the news service said, Chinese Catholics are asking for prayers for the bishop, ” that the Lord will give him confidence and courage, that he will not be demoralized by what happened.”
AsiaNews said that Shao’s disappearances in the past “always occur on the eve of important periods in the life of the Catholic communities: Christmas, Easter, the Assumption and now November, the month of prayer for the dead.”
In Zhejiang Province, which is over 10% Catholic and where the Diocese of Wenzhou is, November has special meaning, because a former bishop, James Lin Xili, is buried in Wenzhou. Bishop Lin was the first local bishop, appointed in 1992 but considered an “underground” bishop not recognized by the CCP and its Catholic Patriotic Association. “In 1999, the authorities arrested him and then kept him under control until his death in 2009,” AsiaNews said:
In past years, authorities have blocked the entrance to Wenzhou’s cemetery with iron barriers to prevent Catholic believers from gathering; this year they directly took Msgr. Shao away. The Party-mandated “New Regulations on Religious Activities,” which went into effect in February 2018, only allow activities (including theological schools) that are held in places that are registered and controlled by the government. Religious personnel can only perform their functions if they adhere to the “official” Church and submit to the CCP.
The signing in 2018, and renewal in October 2020, of the Sino-Vatican Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops has not stopped the persecution of Chinese Catholics, especially unofficial ones. In addition to the case of Msgr. Shao, there is that of Msgr. Jia Zhiguo, placed under house arrest. Then there are bishops who have had water, electricity and gas cut off in their homes, such as Msgr. Guo Xijin; and bishops subjected to political sessions such as Msgr. Zhang Weizhu.