Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Catholic World News News Feature

Chinese bishop arrested as Olympics close August 25, 2008

China's most prominent "underground" Catholic bishop was arrested on Sunday, August 24: the day that also saw the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding was taken into custody by several police officers at Wuqiu cathedral. No immediate reason was given for his arrest, and authorities have not disclosed where the aging bishop is being held.

The 73-year-old Bishop Jia, who heads an active diocese of over 100,000 Catholics in the Hebei diocese, spent 15 years in prison, from 1963 to 1978. Since his release he has been re-arrested at least 12 times; ordinarily he has been detained for a few days of interrogation each time. He has been living under house arrest since 1989.

During the Olympic Games, Chinese Christians had been warned not to organize public worship. About 1,000 Catholics in Zhengding defied those orders to join Bishop Jia for a Mass celebrating the feast of the Assumption at Wuqiu cathedral on August 15. Chinese officials-- particularly in the Hebei diocese, where the underground Catholic Church is strong-- have a history of arresting Christian leaders just before and after major public events such as Communist party congresses. The Olympic Games brought a series of warnings against "unauthorized" religious activity, and AsiaNews has noted that some members of the underground Church predicted a crackdown immediately after the Olympics, when media attention decreased.